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BUSINESS GROUPS URGE CONGRESS TO GROW INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL TO THE U.S.

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BUSINESS GROUPS URGE CONGRESS TO GROW INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL TO THE U.S.

New Campaign Calls for Immediate Expansion of the Visa Waiver Program; 1.4 Million Jobs and $511 Billion at Stake for U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON—Leaders from a broad-based coalition of travel, hotel, retail, restaurant, professional and business organizations, united behind the Discover America Partnership (DAP), today launched a renewed push to advance the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act through Congress.

The Partnership reflects a far-reaching set of industries and stakeholders that share the need for efficient, secure international travel to the United States – whether the travel is to negotiate business deals, host global conferences and trade shows, or welcome international tourists. Leaders from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, International Franchise Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Travel Association work alongside partners like the Entomological Society of America, NYSE Euronext and Ultimate Fighting Championship to advocate for improvements to America’s visa system. Month after month, economic projections from the U.S. Commerce and Labor Departments underscore how international visitation to the U.S. is helping lead the nation’s economic and jobs recovery.

The DAP’s advocacy effort will call on Congress to immediately expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by passing the JOLT Act (H.R. 1354) to help increase international visitation. The campaign launches with issue advertising on public affairs news websites targeting members of Congress and their staff. Central to the advertising campaign is a video that underscores the economic benefits of increasing international visitation. To view the video, visitwww.DiscoverAmericaPartnership.org/JOLTAct.

The Partnership will also tap into the kickoff of the World Cup to launch the “Golden Goal Challenge” to illustrate the positive economic impact of welcoming more international travelers. In soccer, the winner is sometimes decided by a sudden-death shootout, or “Golden Goal.” The U.S. faces a similar challenge in winning its fair share of the rapidly growing international travel market.

Although world travel has grown by more than 90 million travelers during the past decade, the U.S. remains far below the 17 percent share of global travel it achieved in 2000. Recapturing America's historic share of worldwide travel would create up to 1.4 million American jobs and produce $511 billion in economic output by 2020.

If VWP is extended to strong candidates such as Brazil, Poland, Israel and Croatia through the JOLT Act, the U.S. will take an important step forward in reaching the goal of recapturing its share of international travelers. Expansion of VWP to these and other select countries will add nearly $10 billion to the economy and create nearly 60,000 additional American jobs. VWP is a rare government initiative without any downside: the program increases visitation from international travelers with no compromise in security because new visitors are coming from friendly, developed countries that meet strict security protocols. The JOLT Act has reached 160 co-sponsors in Congress, roughly split between the two major political parties.

The U.S. has already experienced the economic benefits of expanding VWP. Since South Korea was admitted into the program in 2008, spending by South Korean visitors has increased by 52 percent. Chile recently became the 38th country to gain Visa Waiver access, and estimates show that spending in the U.S. by Chilean visitors will likely triple during Chile’s first year in the program.

“The Visa Waiver Program is an essential policy that will greatly benefit a wide range of industries and businesses,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, which chairs the Partnership. “Travel to the U.S. is our country’s number one services export, contributing nearly $181 billion to the economy and supporting more than 1.2 million American jobs. But, the U.S. has consistently fallen short in capturing our global market share of worldwide travelers. We’ll continue to lose ground if we do not take advantage of an expanded Visa Waiver Program and push for policies that maximize the benefits of welcoming more visitors to our country. Passage of the JOLT Act moves us in the right direction. It will help enhance the U.S.’s brand internationally and enable us to advance trade, create jobs and compete globally.”

Discover America Partnership Member Statements:

American Hotel & Lodging Association: “Expansion of the Visa Waiver Program will provide significant benefits to the U.S. lodging industry and its 1.8 million employees. International travelers are essential to the continued success of our industry, which is largely made up of small businesses. We are committed to promoting and supporting legislation that safely and responsibly promotes increased tourism to this country, allowing hotels to continue as drivers of economic growth and job creation,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO.

International Franchise Association: “The VWP is a common-sense policy that should be passed immediately. The U.S. is losing ground quickly in the scope of international travel due to our stringent restrictions to friendly countries. By expanding the VWP, we can ensure that more visitors will come to the U.S. for both leisure and business purposes, thus boosting our economy and strengthening international relations,” said Steve Caldeira, president and CEO.

National Retail Federation: “International visitors are one of the biggest contributors to retail success in this country. Without the Visa Waiver Program and the JOLT Act, one of America’s most influential industries would begin to lose steam. We need to expand upon these smart programs to increase and solidify America’s stake in the global travel market,” said David French, senior vice president of government relations.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “Expanding the Visa Waiver Program would address key barriers that deter international business and leisure travelers to the U.S. while responsibly adding nearly $10billion to our economy each year. Beyond the obvious benefits to the tourism market, these reforms are also critical for allowing business travelers to visit the U.S. to buy products or participate in conferences, training, and trade shows, while strengthening America’s role as the center of innovation and global commerce. By passing the JOLT Act and Visa Waiver Program expansion we can bolster our economy and reverse the perception that the U.S. does not welcome international travelers,” said Bruce Josten, executive vice president of government affairs.

National Restaurant Association: “The restaurant industry greatly depends on international visitors traveling to local communities and dining at restaurants and neighborhood hot spots. One of the benefits of promoting travel is that it has a very clear and definitive bipartisan appeal. We hope that leaders in Congress can find a way to pass Visa Waiver Program expansion and the JOLT Act this year,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO.

About Discover America Partnership
The Discover America Partnership (DAP) is a coalition and grassroots campaign effort to advance visa and entry reforms to enable the U.S. to regain our historical share of the booming world travel market. DAP members reflect a broad range of industries and missions which share the need for efficient overseas travel to the U.S.–whether it’s to negotiate business deals, host global conferences and trade shows, or welcome international tourists.

To find out more about this critically important piece of legislation, visit:www.DiscoverAmericaPartnership.org/JOLTAct.

Contact:
Rachel Huxley-Cohen
202.778.1064
rhuxleycohen@apcoworldwide.com