Commerce Committee Advances Sullivan’s “Visit America Act” in Tourism Omnibus

Bill would initiate a federal strategy for the struggling U.S. tourism & travel industry

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today thanked his committee colleagues for advancing his Visit America Act as part of the larger Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act of 2021. The bill would set a visitation goal of 116 million annual international travelers to the United States by 2028, formally authorize the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, and create a high-ranking position within the Department of Commerce focused on bolstering America’s travel and tourism industry and coordinating a strategy across multiple federal agencies. The Visit America Act would also require the development and implementation of a strategy to assist the travel and tourism industry to quickly recover from the COVID–19 pandemic. Original cosponsors of the Visit America Act include Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). 

“Travel and tourism are critical engines of our national economy, supporting millions of jobs and generating billions of dollars for communities across the country, including in Alaska. Those jobs and revenues were absolutely decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many have still not returned,” said Sullivan. “In order to realize a full recovery from the pandemic, the tourism industry—like other major economic sectors—deserves an advocate at the highest levels of the federal government to coordinate a whole-of-government strategy. This is an idea my team and I came up with five years ago, and I appreciate Chairwoman Cantwell, Ranking Member Wicker, and my committee colleagues for incorporating the Visit America Act into the committee’s bipartisan ‘Tour Bus’ package. I am hopeful we can get this legislation to the President’s desk soon and support the hard-working small business owners in the travel and tourism economy.” 

The United States is the only member of the G20 international economic forum that does not have a high-ranking official focused on the tourism sector. Most G20 nations have a minister or secretary at the cabinet level.

In addition to the Visit America Act, the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act includes:

  • S.115, Protecting Tourism in the United States Act: This bill would require the Department of Commerce to lead a study of the pandemic’s effects on the travel and tourism industry and identification of policy recommendations to assist the hard-hit industry. 
  • S.343, Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act of 2021: This legislation requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct a feasibility study on the use of canine units to detect the presence of COVID-19.
  • H.R.4094, One-Stop Pilot Program Act of 2021: This legislation would establish a pilot program to allow international passengers from designated foreign airports to avoid rescreening in the U.S. for connecting flights. In collaboration with Customs and Border Protection, TSA would designate the foreign airports and ensure they have comparable security standards.
  • S.82, Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act of 2021: This legislation would require the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services to form a joint task force on air travel during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

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