A coalition led by the U.S. Travel Association has helped coalesce Senate support for tourist visa reform around a new bipartisan bill that is getting a hearing today.
The Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act, introduced yesterday, would expedite the process for some Indian, Chinese and Brazilian nationals to get tourist and business travel visas; boost Canadian tourism; and reform the visa waiver program, which makes it easier for foreign nationals of select countries to visit the United States.
The coalition of hotels, businesses and retailers used their broad membership base and connections to help advocates reach senators on opposite ends of the political spectrum and organize support for the bill, said U.S. Travel spokesman Blain Rethmeier. Now that the Senate is focused on one bill, the coalition will lobby for additional cosponsors and continue to make its case that increasing the number of tourists will not compromise national security, he said.
The coalition and the senators who introduced the bill, dubbed the JOLT Act, have touted the economic impact of increased tourism in the United States. U.S Travel president Roger Dow, for example, will testify at today's hearing telling senators that if 11 candidate countries were added to the visa waiver program, visitors would increase from 3 million to 4 million, a bump that would support 256,000 domestic jobs.
Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another
coalition leader, is testifying alongside Dow before the Immigration, Refugees
and Border Security Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Update: The U.S. Travel Association also held its annual policymaker reception last Wednesday at Union Station, in conjunction with its Board meeting and a gathering of state tourism directors. The event emphasized the association's Vote Travel campaign and allowed for lawmakers to speak with state tourism directors. Among those at the event were Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Reps. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Rick Berg (R-N.D.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Billy Long (R-Mo.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).