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New Fees From Foreign Travelers To Fund USA Travel Promotions

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New Fees From Foreign Travelers To Fund USA Travel Promotions

Starting Wednesday, visitors from 36 countries can expect to pay a new travel
fee when they visit the United States. The majority of the proceeds for the new
fee will support the promotion of U.S. tourism, though opponents argue that the
fee will discourage visitors. 

The fee is being imposed on countries that fall under the Visa Waiver Program,
which allows visitors to travel to the United States for 90 days without
obtaining a visa.

As of today, travelers coming from countries with visa waivers will be charged
$14 to register through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The ESTA is the replacement for the I-94W forms that visitors with visa-waiver
agreements traditionally completed during a flight.

Only $4 of the fee will go toward operating costs for ESTA. The bulk of the
money will go toward funding the promotion of the U.S. as a tourism destination.

Opponents of the plan say that the fee will drive away the very tourists the
U.S. is trying to attract. Instead of making the U.S. seem more open toward
tourism, charging an entry fee would penalize visitors.

The United States should work to make the entry process into the country simpler
instead of more cumbersome, opponents say.

Will the Travel Promotion Act work?Tourism officials in the United States, however, see the fee
as necessary to bolster international visitation to the country. The U.S. Travel
Association, an industry trade group, has praised the plan and the establishment
of the country’s first national travel promotion program.

Tourism to the United States has been steadily declining despite a growth in
global international travel. In 2008, 633,000 fewer overseas visitors came to
the United States when compared to 2000. 

According to Oxford Economics, an economic consulting firm, if the U.S. has a
well-executed promotional program, it could draw 1.6 million new international
visitors a year.

The U.S. Travel Association has pointed out that many countries spend more than
$100 million annually to promote tourism and doesn’t expect the fee to have a
negative effect on visitation.

The fee was established by the Travel Promotion Act, which was signed by
President Barack Obama in March. Part of the Travel Promotion Act legislation
created the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a non-profit that will be partly
funded by the $10 fee. The corporation will also be funded by up to $100 million
in matching private sector contributions.

By Adriana Padilla at PeterGreenberg.com.

Related Links: CNN, Telegraph (UK)

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