I come to the floor to speak in support of the “Travel Promotion Act of 2007,” Which I introduced earlier today with Senator Inouye and Senator Dorgan.
Our legislation has a simple purpose: to increase the number of foreign tourists who visit the United States.
To accomplish this goal, two complementary strategies must be undertaken: Existing travel problems must be resolved, and fundamental improvements must be made to the manner in which we market our country to prospective tourists.
First, the efficiency of our border entry and screening processes must be improved. The commerce committee recently held two hearings on this issue, and industry leaders testified about the adverse effect September 11, 2001 has had on travel to the United States.
Heightened security measures implemented after 9/11, while necessary, continue to inconvenience many travelers. Hearings witnesses described the bureaucratic difficulties international visitors face with regard to our nation’s entry and screening processes, including the issuance of visas.
To address these problems, the Senate has already passed legislation that establishes a “Model Ports” program at the 20 busiest international airports in the United States. This program will reduce bottlenecks to safely and efficiently move travelers through the screening process.
The legislation we introduced today, the Travel Promotion Act, would establish a non-profit corporation to promote travel to the United States. This entity will would not use one cent of taxpayer funds.
Instead, this corporation will be funded by fees paid by travelers that enter our country and matching contributions from members of the travel and tourism industry.
The corporation would be led by experts in the travel and tourism industry, appointed by the secretary of commerce, and held accountable by congress. This essential step will let foreign visitors know that our country is open to tourists.
The travel and tourism industry plays an important role in every state. Those of us in congress must take steps to resolve these pressing issues and encourage tourists to visit America.
In my home state of Alaska, the travel and tourism industry is the second largest private-sector employer. More than 24,000 Alaskans hold tourism-related Jobs, and the industry contributes more than $2 Billion to our state’s economy each year.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on this legislation.