Sullivan, Schatz & King Introduce Visit America Act

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Angus King (I-Maine) recently introduced S. 3831, the Visit America Act, which 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 legislation would also require the development and implementation of a recovery strategy to assist the travel and tourism industry to quickly recover from the COVID–19 pandemic.

“Wide-spread travel restrictions and social distancing orders have helped combat the spread of the coronavirus, but these public health measures have also decimated many sectors of the economy, most especially tourism,” said Senator Sullivan. “Whole communities in Alaska and across the country have seen their travel season and their livelihoods wiped away in a matter of weeks. I’m glad to be joined by Senators Schatz and King in a new effort to rebuild and reinvigorate the tourism economy and the thousands of jobs it supports with a coordinated, whole-of-government strategy at the highest levels of the administration." 

"Our visitor industry drives Hawaii's economy, providing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue," said Senator Schatz. "Our bill will make sure that all federal agencies are working together to safely restart tourism and help the industry recover from this pandemic." 

“From the coasts to the forests to the mountains, Maine’s unparalleled beauty never disappoints – which is why every year, millions of people from across the globe travel to our state to experience The Way Life Should Be. However, this year the coronavirus pandemic is forcing Maine people to answer a serious question: what happens to Vacationland when all the usual visitors stay home?” said Senator King, Ranking member of the National Parks Subcommittee.  “Tourism is vital to Maine’s economy – especially during the summer season – and the impacts of this year’s reduced travel will be felt for years to come. We need a forceful response to support the tourism industry and the communities that rely on it, and I’ll keep working with Senators Sullivan and Schatz to make sure we help this vital piece of our national economy not only rebound, but grow and thrive.

“While travel and tourism supported employment for 1 in 10 Americans in 2019, more than half of those jobs have been lost as a result of the pandemic, underscoring the urgent need for this legislation,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “Travel and tourism will be a major and necessary force in an economic rebound, but a revival of the industry will not happen on its own. This bill would provide dedicated leadership at the federal level to help guide travel’s resurgence and fuel a nationwide recovery to the benefit of all Americans. We thank Senator Sullivan, Senator Schatz and Senator King for their leadership on this important issue.”

“Alaska’s tourism industry, which includes mostly small businesses, has been devastated by COVID-19 and the necessary health restrictions. As a long haul destination, Alaska is significantly affected by global impacts as we are dependent on every port of entry – cruise, air or cross-border – for visitors. From tour operators and fishing guides to wilderness lodges and transportation providers, people are fighting for their livelihoods,” said Sarah Leonard, President & CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA), Alaska’s leading statewide organization for travel and tourism. “We know tourism needs to develop innovative ways of doing business in this new reality. Having dedicated and high level leadership, as described in the Visit America Act, helps lead our industry toward economic recovery.”

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. 

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