Many travel and tourism organizations are happy that the $1.7 trillion omnibus budget package was passed. Its signing was celebrated because it includes provisions that would support and preserve the American tourism industry, which is worth billions of dollars. This economic boost could not be more timely as the travel industry slowly recovers from the Covid lockdowns.
Nearly buried inside a spending bill that includes provisions for the war in Ukraine and securing pensions for Baby Boomers, is a nugget for which the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and US Travel Association (USTA) have been lobbying for years. The “Visit America Act/Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act” passed in September also included some noteworthy advantages for domestic travel. Plus, it lays out initiatives to encourage international tourism in order to counteract the recent decrease in foreign visitors to the country.
Lowering the Barriers to Travel
This new legislation is designed to ensure that the federal government concentrates on policies that encourage sustained recovery of the tourism industry following the pandemic. At the same time, it aims to support long-term competitiveness of travel and hospitality-related businesses.
For example, with the enactment of the Visit America Act, we are likely to see updates in security checks for the sake of efficiency and the use new technologies to make domestic travel safer and more convenient.
Encouraging International Tourism
Everyone in the industry saw firsthand the disorganized federal regulation of the travel industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Operators had to deal with excessive and avoidable difficulties caused by battles between various government agencies and the continually shifting and conflicting rules governing all types of travel. By creating a high-level leadership post within the federal government dedicated to issues affecting the travel industry, as this Act does, the sector would be shielded from unwarranted setbacks brought on by later conflicting and muddled policy decisions.
Until today, the United States was the only G20 nation without a cabinet-level minister or government agency in charge of tourist strategy.
One of the stipulations of the bill requires the Dept. of Commerce to create a 10-year travel and tourism strategy with yearly targets for the volume of foreign tourists coming to the United States. Additionally, it essentially creates a new position termed ‘assistant secretary of commerce for travel and tourism.’ This is an important development because it puts a presidentially appointed, US Senate-confirmed representative in charge of nation-wide travel policies. The role of this travel secretary covers responsibilities such as:
- Establishing a yearly target for the number of foreign tourists,
- Supporting more efficient visitor visa processing,
- Promoting international attractions and events.
In general, the Visit America Act guarantees that travel-related concerns will gain more support from the government and private-sector cooperation. For example, the US will become more competitive about hosting and promoting conferences and events that are likely to draw international visitors.
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