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Hoteliers Await Senate Passage of Blockbuster Travel Promotion Act

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- The U.S. hospitality industry today is holding its collective breath as it awaits final passage of a blockbuster travel promotion act structured to jump-start the nation's anemic lodging sectors.

By a voice vote of 358 to 66, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 3232, the "Travel Promotion Act of 2008."  The Senate passed similar legislation in early September and is now expected to sign off on the bill.  Then it will go directly to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The legislation is being touted  by Oxford Economics, a 28-year-old internationally-respected research group,  as a lever that will produce 40,000 new jobs in the U.S. and generate $4 billion in new consumer spending--with no cost to taxpayers.

The Congressional Budget Office calculates the promotion act could possibly reduce the federal deficit by $425 million in the next 10 years.  That estimation is base on overseas visitors spending an average $4.500 per person, per trip in the U.S.

Washington insiders say he legislation is specifically aimed at international travelers to the United States who, since 9/11, have found ever-changing security policies and negative foreign press coverage to be a deterrent to visiting the United States.

Hospitality industry officials were jubilant over the politicians' moves for their hard-hit industry.

"The U.S. House of Representatives took decisive action today to jump-start America's struggling economy and create thousands of new jobs by passing the 'Travel Promotion Act,'" says Roger Dow, President and CEO of the Travel Industry Association.

 "We now call on the U.S. Senate to act quickly to reverse the decline in overseas visitation to the United States and utilize the power of travel to strengthen the American economy."

 "This is a historic, unprecedented achievement for the travel community," adds Dow. "In response to the tragic events of 9/11, the government put in place needed security measures. This legislation creates a public-private partnership to ensure proper communication of those measures and attract millions of additional international visitors."

The legislation, introduced by Representatives William Delahunt (D-MA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO)  establishes a public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier international travel destination and to communicate U.S. security and entry policies.

The bill specifies that travel promotion would be paid by private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers who do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the United States. The fee is collected once every two years in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security's Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

According to the Travel Industry Association,  two million fewer overseas travelers visited the United States in 2007 than in 2000. The decline in overseas travel since 9/11 has cost America 46 million visitors, $140 billion in lost visitor spending and $23 billion in lost tax revenue.

Thumbnail image for Rep.-Roy-Blunt.jpg

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO)

"If the United States had simply kept pace with global travel trends, the U.S. economy would have created an additional 340,000 obs in 2007 and the total U.S. unemployment rate would have dropped from 4.6 to 4.4 percent," according to the TIA's position.

 The Travel Industry Association says it is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the $740 billion travel industry. TIA's mission is to promote and facilitate increased travel to and within the United States.

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