“Visit America Act” Advances from Commerce Committee

Bill would require federal strategy to help tourism sector quickly recover from COVID-19 pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Angus King (I-Maine) applauded the committee’s unanimous passage today of S.3831, the Visit America Act, introduced by the senators in June. 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 legislation 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.

“The tourism economy, which supports tens of thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in economic activity for Alaska and many other states, has been hit incredibly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Sullivan. “In order to reinvigorate the vital tourism sector and the jobs it supports, we need a coordinated strategy at the highest levels of the administration. The Visit America Act will better position the travel industry for a strong rebound, with ambitious visitation goals, requirements for a whole-of-government recovery strategy, and a high-level tourism official in the federal government for the first time ever. I thank my colleagues, particularly Senator Schatz and Senator King, for helping us advance this important bill.”

“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 forced 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 – but with fewer visitors this year, businesses that earn the lion’s share of their revenue during the summer months must have every chance to thrive in future years. 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.” 

“More than half of travel-supported jobs in the U.S. were lost between the onset of the pandemic and May 1, and a broader economic recovery will not be possible without a travel recovery,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “This bill provides leadership at the federal level to help guide travel’s resurgence. We thank the Senate Commerce Committee for advancing the bill, and especially Sen. Sullivan, Sen. Schatz and Sen. King for their leadership on this important issue.” 

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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