September 09, 2009

Udall Lauds Passage of Tourism Legislation

Bill Will Encourage International Travel in NM, United States

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-NM, today lauded the passage of legislation to increase the number of foreign tourists who visit the United States and New Mexico.

The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (S. 1023), which Udall cosponsored, will establish a nationally-coordinated travel promotion program to accurately communicate America’s travel policies and promote international travel to all areas of the United States.

"This legislation will allow New Mexico and the rest of the United States to better compete with other countries in capturing the multi-billion-dollar international tourism market," Udall said. "In addition to growing jobs and tax revenues, increased international travel to the United States is our most effective public diplomacy tool. That’s because studies have shown that people who visit our country and meet our people are more likely to have a favorable opinion of the United States."

In New Mexico, travel and tourism generates $5.5 billion for the state’s economy, supporting more than 100,000 jobs – many of which are in rural areas with high rates of unemployment. Each year, New Mexico welcomes 12 million visitors, with the average travel party spending $1,192 during their visit. Nationally, the average overseas visitor spends $4,500 per visit.

The Travel Promotion Act is a bipartisan proposal supported by the U.S. Travel Association and more than 75 travel industry associations and visitors bureaus from across the country. The bill would establish a Corporation for Travel Promotion, an independent, non-profit corporation governed by an 11-member board of directors appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, as well as an Office of Travel Promotion within the Department of Commerce, which will develop programs to increase the number of international visitors to the United States.

It also sets up a Travel Promotion Fund funded by a public-private matching program, with federal contributions financed through a $10 fee paid by foreign travelers from Visa Waiver countries and collected via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. In FY2010, the Corporation will receive $10 million in start-up funding with no matching requirement. The funds will be used for clearly communicating U.S. travel policies and promoting travel to destinations across the country, including areas not traditionally visited by international travelers.

Passage of the legislation comes as the United States tourism industry continues to experience a marked decline in the number of international travelers who visit the country each year. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent implementation of enhanced travel security measures, the decline in overseas visits have cost the country an estimated $182 billion in lost visitor spending and $27 billion in lost tax receipts.

"During this tough economic climate, we need to be doing everything we can to promote New Mexico – and the United States – as a tourism destination for visitors from around the world," Udall said. "This legislation allows us to take an important step forward in regaining our competitive advantage by making our entry process more welcoming to foreign visitors."