Commerce Committee Approves Bipartisan Tourism Legislation

Omnibus package would create a united front against the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industries

December 15, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., chair of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Rick Scott, R-Fla., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Angus King, I-Maine, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., today released the following statements after the committee approved the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act of 2021. The legislation includes provisions to study the impacts of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industry, elevate travel and tourism matters at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and facilitate international travel and set visitation goals for international travelers to the U.S.

“The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the travel and tourism industry and, consequently, led to severe impacts on our economy,” said Wicker. “There was nearly $500 billion in lost travel spending, resulting in $64 billion in missed federal, state, and local tax revenue since the beginning of March. It may take years to restore travel and tourism to its pre-pandemic levels. However, this legislation would help protect the travel and tourism industries from the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. I thank my colleagues in joining me to help this sector heal and prosper once again.”

“Restoring the travel and tourism industry to its full potential is a top priority, and I’m glad to see our legislative package has passed the Senate Commerce Committee with strong bipartisan support,” said Rosen. “Over the past two years, tourism has been hit hard in Nevada and across the country because of COVID-19. This bipartisan package will take important steps to enhance air travel health and safety, enact a comprehensive study on the pandemic’s impact on the industry, and better coordinate our national travel and tourism strategy across federal agencies. I will continue working across the aisle to ensure the full Senate passes this legislation quickly to support our businesses and bring back good-paying jobs.”

“From Lake Superior to the Mall of America, Minnesota is home to exceptional tourist destinations—but as travel has been limited during the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry has been hit particularly hard,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation will help support the travel and tourism industry, which will boost local economies across the country. Now that it has passed the Commerce Committee, I look forward to it passing the full Senate and being signed into law.”

“From hotel clerks and restaurant workers to flight attendants and tour guides, the travel and tourism industry supports millions of good-paying jobs in communities across the nation,” said Blunt. “At a time when the industry continues to face significant challenges, I’m glad this bill includes the Protecting Tourism in the United States Act, which I introduced with Senator Amy Klobuchar, to help travel and tourism bounce back sooner and emerge stronger than before. I urge my colleagues to back this bipartisan bill that will enhance support for the tourism industry and all of those whose livelihoods depend on it.”

“Travel and tourism are critical engines of our national economy, supporting millions of jobs and generating billions of dollars for communities across the country, including in Alaska. Those jobs and revenues were absolutely decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many have still not returned,” said Sullivan. “In order to realize a full recovery from the pandemic, the tourism industry—like other major economic sectors—deserves an advocate at the highest levels of the federal government to coordinate a whole-of-government strategy. This is an idea my team and I came up with five years ago, and I appreciate Chairwoman Cantwell, Ranking Member Wicker, and my committee colleagues for incorporating the Visit America Act into the committee’s bipartisan ‘Tour Bus’ package. I am hopeful we can get this legislation to the President’s desk soon and support the hard-working small business owners in the travel and tourism economy.”

“While Americans are working hard to recover from COVID-19, our nation’s travel and tourism industries are critical to supporting small businesses, fueling job growth and getting our economy fully re-opened,” said Scott. “The Commerce Committee’s passage of the Tourism Omnibus Act today is great news and an important step forward to safely and fully bring back the tourism industry after the devastating impacts of the pandemic. As Ranking Member of the Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion Subcommittee, I’m proud to see this important piece of legislation, which is the product of many hearings in our Subcommittee this year, continue to move forward in the Senate. We heard from small businesses and employees to better understand how Congress can be helpful to their industry’s recovery. I’ll continue working to support our tourism industry in Florida and across our nation, and I thank my colleagues for their bipartisan support of this bill.”

“Our bipartisan legislation will help revitalize Arizona’s tourism and travel industry in its recovery from the pandemic – creating jobs and economic opportunities for Arizonans,” said Sinema.

“Nevada is a world class tourism destination, and I’ll always champion our hospitality and travel sector that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across our state,” said Cortez Masto. “That’s why I worked with my colleagues and tourism representatives to help craft this bipartisan legislation with vital support for the industry - including bills to promote international tourism and implement better health and safety protocols to keep visitors safe during the pandemic and beyond. Nevada sets the gold standard in hospitality, and I’ll keep working to ensure we can strengthen our economy and safely welcome everyone who wants to experience the Silver State.”

“Each year, millions of visitors from around the globe come to Maine to experience our picturesque coastline, lush forests, awe-inspiring mountains, and a taste of the Way Life Should Be” said King. “These visits and visitors support Maine’s seasonal economy, and many of our state’s small businesses have built their business models around the busy summer season. COVID-19 was a difficult reminder of how vulnerable this vital sector of our economy is to sudden shifts in consumer demand. In order to protect these small businesses and the communities that rely on them, we have to invest in the resiliency of the tourism economy. The TourBus legislation, which includes my bipartisan Visit America Act, will streamline a patchwork of government efforts under one federal office, enabling us to marshal federal resources to help our tourism industry bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever.”

The Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act includes the following pieces of legislation:

  • S.1947, Visit America Act: Sullivan and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, originally introduced the Visit America Act in the 116th Congress and reintroduced the legislation in the 117th Congress. The Visit America Act would authorize an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism position in the Department of Commerce and establishes a travel and tourism advisory board in order to execute a COVID-19 recovery strategy.
  • S.115, Protecting Tourism in the United States Act: Introduced by Klobuchar and Blunt, this bill would require the Department of Commerce to lead a study of the pandemic’s effects on the travel and tourism industry and identification of policy recommendations to assist the hard-hit industry. 
  • S.343, Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act of 2021: Scott and Sinema introduced the Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act of 2021 in the 117th Congress. This legislation requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct a feasibility study on the use of canine units to detect the presence of COVID-19.
  • H.R.4094, One-Stop Pilot Program Act of 2021: This legislation would establish a pilot program to allow international passengers from designated foreign airports to avoid rescreening in the U.S. for connecting flights. In collaboration with Customs and Border Protection, TSA would designate the foreign airports and ensure they have comparable security standards.
  • S.82 Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act of 2021: Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Wicker introduced the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act of 2021 during the 117th Congress. The legislation would require the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services to form a joint task force on air travel during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency. The same text passed the Senate by unanimous consent in the 116th Congress.

Click here to read the bill as filed.
Click here for the Rosen substitute.
Click here for the adopted amendments.