The Travel Promotion Act was passed on February 25, 2010, as Section 9 of H.R. 1299, “United States Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009” and signed into law on March 4, 2010.
Section 9 (b) of the bill establishes a non-profit Corporation for Travel Promotion governed by an 11-member board of directors appointed by the Secretary of Commerce after consultation with the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State. The Corporation shall develop and execute a plan to provide information to those interested in traveling to the United States; identify and address perceptions regarding U.S. entry policies; promote the United States to world travelers; and identify opportunities to promote tourism to rural and urban areas equally.
Section 9 (c) of the bill requires the Board to establish annual objectives for the Corporation for each fiscal year, subject to approval by the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State. The Corporation must also submit a marketing plan and budget each fiscal year, with an explanation for any expenditure over $5 million, and submit an annual report to the Secretary of Commerce.
Section 9 (d) of the bill establishes a Travel Promotion Fund at the U.S. Treasury. For FY 2010, the Secretary of the Treasury will transfer up to $10 million to the Corporation from amounts deposited in the general fund from fees collection under Section 217(h)(3)(B)(i)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. For 2011, the Corporation must provide matching amounts from non-Federal sources equal to 50 percent or more of the amount transferred to the Fund. For subsequent years, the Corporation will receive an amount equal to the amount collected from non-Federal sources, not to exceed $100 million.
Section 9 (e) of the bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish and begin collection of a fee under the Immigration and Nationality Act no later than 6 months after the date of enactment of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. The initial fee will be $10 per travel authorization in addition to an amount that will recover the full costs of administering the system. The $10 fee will be credited to the Fund.
Section 9 (f) allows the Corporation to assess members of the international travel and tourism industry for sums up to $20 million by referendum and sue in Federal Court to compel compliance.
Section 9 (g) establishes the Office of Travel Promotion with the Department of Commerce, headed by a Director appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The Director, a U.S. citizen qualified by direct experience in a field directly related to the promotion of travel to and within the United States, serves as liaison to the Corporation and supports the development of programs to increase the number of international visitors to the United States. The Office shall work with the Corporation and the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to disseminate information about entry procedures; ensure that arriving visitors are welcomed with accurate information; collect data on the total number of international visitors that visit each State; and enhance the entry and exit experience for visitors.
Section 9 (h) expands the research activities of the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries in the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, including expanding access to the official Mexican travel surveys data; expanding the number of inbound air travelers sampled by the Survey of International Travelers; developing estimates of international travel exports (expenditures) on a state-by-state basis; evaluating the success of the Corporation in achieving its objectives; and research to support the annual reports required by the Corporation.
The intent of the bill is to increase international travel to the United States by improving the image of the United States around the world, thereby creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. An independent analysis by Oxford Economics found that the legislation could help create more than $4 billion in consumer spending annually and generate 40,000 new U.S. jobs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the program will reduce the federal budget deficit by $425 million in the next ten years.
Enactment of H.R. 1299 will not require a mandatory increase in the appropriations for the Department of Commerce. However, the legislation’s requirements to create an Office of Travel Promotion within the Department of Commerce and to increase travel and tourism research by the Department of Commerce are not funded and may require additional appropriated funds to fulfill this mandate.