Chairman Rockefeller's Opening Remarks for Tourism in Troubled Times Hearing

May 13, 2009

I would like to welcome everyone here today, and express my regret for not being in attendance. I would like to thank Senator Klobuchar for calling this hearing and for her dedication to shining the light on an industry that must flourish if our economy is to recover from the current economic downturn. 

I would like to thank our distinguished Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid from Nevada for coming before the Committee today, along with representatives from this Administration and industry leaders.  Leader Reid, your dedication to Nevada families is admirable and we thank you for sharing your expertise and much-needed perspective.

Essential facts tell the story of the challenges we face.

Millions of American jobs depend on the tourism industry and 90 percent of those jobs are in small-to-medium sized enterprises. 

In 2009 alone America has seen a significant drop in numbers for the first quarter and according to the Department of Commerce, current estimates on international visitors are down 10% compared to this time last year.

The United States Travel Association claims that a one percent increase in the international traveler market share results in a $3.9 billion dollar increase in payroll receipts for American workers. 

It is imperative that the federal government support, promote, and help this nation compete for every international traveler possible.  The economic livelihood of our local communities depends on it.

In my own state of West Virginia, travel generated spending equates to $3.9 billion dollars a year; roughly $10.9 million dollars per day.  These dollars directly support about 44,000 jobs with earnings of $854 million dollars.  Local and state tax revenues from travel spending were $546 million dollars in 2006.  Without this source of revenue, each household in West Virginia would have to pay an additional $715 dollars in state and local taxes to replace this money in the state’s budget . 

Now is the time for the United States to work on a comprehensive approach to promoting some of our nation’s greatest assets: our small towns and villages, our thriving metropolitan cities, and our beautiful National Parks system. 

Solutions are needed now and that is why we are here today.  Families, businesses, and communities who rely on this revenue to stay afloat know - we don’t have a moment to wait.