To facilitate international travel to the United States, the Corporation for Travel Promotion is working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Department of Commerce on ways to market the country as a destination, streamline the visa application process, and admit more countries into the Visa Waiver Program, a panel said at the American Hotel & Lodging Association Legislative Action Summit in Washington, D.C., March 15.
The panel consisted of Stephen Cloobeck, chairman and CEO of Diamond Resorts International and chairman of the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP); Anna Laitin, professional staff member, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee; and Joel Secundy, deputy assistant secretary for services, U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration.
The CTP was enacted when President Barack Obama signed the Travel Promotion Act into law March 4, 2010, and the 501 (c)(6) nonprofit officially launched in September, with its board of directors appointed by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
Since Sept. 8, the day when travelers from the 36 visa waiver countries began paying a $14 tourist fee to enter the U.S., the CTP has $40 million in the bank, says Cloobeck, adding that this amount is growing at a rate of about $350,000 a day. The fee is part of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, and $10 of the $14 goes toward promoting the U.S. as a tourist destination.
“Can you all imagine the first time the United States is going to market itself?” Cloobeck said. “It’s a major event.”
The CTP was allocated $10 million in funds for its first year, but Cloobeck says the Senate didn’t realize it would only take the corporation a few months to gain such momentum, and he hopes the board can unlock dollars earlier.
Secundy added that travel and tourism is a $1.2 trillion industry in America—one of America’s largest industries and largest employers. The panel reminded AH&LA members that 24 percent of all service exports are tourism and travel, a statistic they conveyed to members of Congress during appointments on Capitol Hill March 16.
Oxford Economics, an economic consulting and forecasting company, estimates the campaign will attract 1.6 million new international visitors, create $4 billion in new spending, and drive $321 million in new Federal tax revenue annually. The company also foresees that this will create more than 40,000 U.S. jobs and help boost U.S. exports. The U.S. Commerce Department forecasts that international arrivals will reach almost 83 million by 2015.
On Feb. 11, 2011, the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, an advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce, approved and submitted a letter to Sec. Locke with 10 recommendations to improve visa policy and the customer service experience for international visitors during entry to the U.S. in order to facilitate legitimate international travel to the country. These recommendations included establishing a maximum wait time of five days for visa processing, adding four to six visa processing locations each in China, Brazil, and India, and adding a few hundred officers in visa processing centers in key emerging countries to reduce wait time and meet growing demand.
Secundy stressed the importance of having access to a private entity that can break through bureaucracy. “The industry passed the most significant piece of legislation it didn’t have before,” Secundy said, adding that big changes are underway.