Today at 11:30 a.m. EST President Obama signed into law the landmark Travel Promotion Act which establishes a multi-million dollar, public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier travel destination and increase inbound tourism.
The act creates a new Corporation for Travel Promotion that is modeled after successful state programs and those in other countries. Once enacted, the Travel Promotion Act will be funded through a matching program featuring up to $100 million in private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers. The fee will be collected once every two years in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization. No money is provided by U.S. taxpayers. According to independent analysis by Oxford Economics, the program could attract 1.6 million additional visitors from other countries, create more than $4 billion in consumer spending annually and generate up to 40,000 new jobs.
Congressman Doc Hastings, Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell supported the legislation.
While the U.S. travel industry employs 7.7 million Americans and generates more than $740 billion in spending annually, its tourism market share has been threatened in recent years in the face of growing global competition and its own tough visitor entry requirements. “The USA has been one of the only civilized nations in the world that does not promote inbound international tourism,” said John Cooper, President and CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau and President of the board for the Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations Association. “Sadly, as we celebrate this breakthrough national legislation, our own Washington State Legislature is contemplating a drastic de-funding of our state tourism program.”
Currently, tourism ranks fourth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) produced in Washington State. Each year, visitors spend $14.2 billion, support nearly 150,000 jobs and contribute nearly $1 billion in local and state tax revenues.
Last month, hundreds of statewide tourism industry professionals convened in Olympia to meet with legislators and explain why tourism matters to Washington state. The industry agenda included support of continued funding of the state tourism program, use of existing funds to continue studies on the proposed expansion of the Washington State Convention Center and opposition to House and Senate bills that would raid and dilute local lodging tax funds that have traditionally served as critical reinvestment in the state’s tourism industry.
Washington State’s core of private sector destination marketing organizations launched a first-ever industry advocacy campaign called Why Tourism Matters last year. Visit the campaign website at www.whytourismmatters.com.
The Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau is a non-profit economic development agency responsible for competitively marketing the Yakima Valley as a tourism and meeting destination. Visitors to Yakima County spend more than $245 million each year and generate in excess of $25 million in state and local taxes. Tourism directly supports 3,400 jobs in Yakima County.