The Senate is currently chewing on the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, which
would establish a non-profit corporation to better communicate U.S. entry policies to international travelers and promote leisure, business, and scholarly travel to the United States.
The problem this bill is allegedly intended to solve? "Overseas travel to the United States has decreased significantly" since Sept. 11, 2001, partly as a "consequence of erecting barriers to travel." The funding mechanism by which this new non-profit P.R. firm will counteract these barriers to entry? As DRJ of Patterico's Pontifications points out, part of it will come from ... a new $10 fee assessed on every foreign traveler.
Meanwhile, the bureaucratic back-story is as depressing as it is predictable:
Since the creation of the U.S. Travel Bureau in 1937, the federal government has promoted travel. In 1961, the U.S. Travel Service (USTS) was created to increase travel by foreign nationals through advertising. However, in the late 1970's, Congress began scaling back federal funding for advertising until it was eventually eliminated in 1996 and along with it the USTS's successor agency, the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration (USTTA). After a 12 percent drop in tourism receipts and a loss of 390,000 related jobs following 9/11, Congress restarted federal advertising in 2003 and created the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (USTTAB). This board is comprised of senior travel and tourism experts from around the nation who advise the Secretary of Commerce on how to increase foreign travel to the United States.
In 2006, the USTTAB released a report entitled, Restoring American's Travel Brand: A National Strategy to Compete for International Visitors. The report encouraged the United States to remove unnecessary barriers to entry for legitimate travelers, including months-long waiting periods due to inadequate staffing in the Non-immigrant Visa Program. The report also encouraged the creation of a federal office to coordinate governmental and private sector efforts to enhance the nation's standing in the global travel market, something commonly found in other nations.