Tourism Board to Promote Travel, Help Nevada Economy

Earlier this month Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) helped push the Travel Promotion Act through the Senate, a bill that aims to bring American tourism into the 21st century and give a much-needed boost to tourism-dependent economies like Nevada’s. The bill has also passed the House of Representatives and is expected to be signed by President Obama shortly, providing a no-cost stimulus to the nation’s ailing economy. With one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, Las Vegas, Nevada definitely needs any help it can get for its ailing tourism economy.

According to this piece from the Huffington Post, one in eight Americans depends on tourism for a living. A central tenet of market economics is that every dollar spent has a “multiplier” effect, adding to economic growth each time it is spent and re-spent; foreign dollars do this even more powerfully because they originate outside the national economy. Thus, tourism is a powerful economic engine for our country.

But as concerns about illegal immigration and national security have grown in recent years, entering the United States has become an increasingly costly, complicated affair, and that has turned off many would-be foreign visitors. The Visa Waiver Program is an attempt to minimize this problem by allowing visitors from select countries to enter the United States without a visa for a period of 90 days for business or tourism purposes.

Despite these efforts, America’s share of foreign travel—and those powerful foreign dollars—has continued to decline. Nine percent fewer travelers came to the United States in 2009 than in the year 2000, a loss of some 2.4 million visitors. And as Mexico, China, and the European Union continue pro-tourism media campaigns that cost tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars per year, America spends exactly $0 promoting tourism from foreign visitors.

The Act would, among other things, create a Tourism Board to promote travel to the United States. Funded by a nominal $10 fee on Visa Waiver travelers and matching funds from the travel industry, the Board would be a flexible public-private partnership.

The Travel Promotion Act is a small action in the larger push to reconcile our immigration system–a patchwork of “fixes” sewn together over two centuries–with the realities of our current economic needs. Hopefully the common sense (and bipartisanship) shown in adopting this smart legislation will also guide Congress as it attempts to tackle comprehensive immigration reform this year. Continue to visit our Nevada immigration Web site for immigration help and information as we track the push for CIR.

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