After seeing 2.4 million fewer overseas visitors in 2009 than in 2000, the United States is finally making the commitment to reposition itself as a frontrunner in the global travel market. On March 4, nearly a year after its introduction, the Travel Promotion Act (TPA) was signed into law by President Obama, making it the first national travel promotion and communications initiative to be endorsed by the U.S. government.
According to the 2009 Country Brand Index by FutureBrand, the U.S. ranked No. 1 in overall brand image, but placed in the bottom half of countries for ease of travel to and within the country. It is currently ranked the world’s fourth-best conference destination. Hopes are the Travel Promotion Act will help boost the U.S.’s rankings.
America still lags behind other countries that spend millions of dollars promoting themselves as international travel destinations. These same countries are in direct competition with the U.S., which, until now, has never had a budget for promotional efforts. According to the U.S. Travel Association, that failure to keep pace with other countries has cost our economy an estimated $509 billion in total spending and $32 billion in direct tax receipts.
If the program is successful, it may be able to create as many as 40,000 new jobs, generate $4 billion in new spending and $321 million in tax revenue annually. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the TPA could reduce the federal deficit by $425 million over a 10-year period.
“By signing the Travel Promotion Act, President Obama has acted to support the power of travel to serve as an economic stimulant, job generator and diplomatic tool,” stated Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “This program will create tens of thousands of American jobs and help reverse negative perceptions about travel to the United States.”
The initiative, which does not depend on taxpayer monies, will be funded through a matching program of nearly $100 million in private sector contributions and a $10 fee paid by overseas visitors from countries that do not pay for a $131 visa to enter the U.S. The fee will be collected once every two years in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
The TPA will be operated as a semi-private corporation, managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce will, in turn, work with the departments of State and Homeland Security to nominate an 11-member board comprised of representatives from various segments of the travel community.
Once the board is in place, it will select an executive director to run the operations of the corporation. Ultimately, the corporation will develop a multi-channel marketing and communications program to attract more international visitors and explain changing travel security policies.
“We have already seen the benefits of a public-private partnership in states like California and Florida,” stated Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of California Travel & Tourism Commission. “Destinations and local communities across the country will benefit from a comprehensive national effort to market the U.S.A. brand. The Travel Promotion Act will help keep the United States competitive in the international marketplace.”
The TPA was brought before Congress in 2009 and initially passed in September, but Senate proceedings made it necessary for an additional vote that wasn’t granted until October. A similar bill also passed the House of Representatives in 2008. For more information, visit poweroftravel.org or ustravel.org.