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Case Leads Introduction of Visit America Act in U.S. House

The Bipartisan, Bicameral Measure Charts a Coordinated Federal Recovery Path for Nation’s Critical Travel and Tourism Industry

Washington, October 1, 2020
Tags: Economy

(Washington, DC) – Congressman Ed Case (D-HI) today joined his House Travel and Tourism Caucus co-chairs Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) along with Congressman Don Young (R-AK) in introducing the Visit America Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Visit America Act, developed with and supported by the nation’s travel and tourism industry, would mandate a coordinated national effort to stabilize and recover one of the country’s primary industries which has been particularly devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before COVID-19, U.S. travel and tourism generated some $2.6 trillion in economic output and supported some 16 million jobs, or one in ten of all U.S. jobs. With its component industries, especially accommodations, air travel and food services, it was a major U.S. export and trade surplus contributor to the country, and that is before accounting for domestic travel and tourism.

COVID-19 changed all that precipitously, devastating many state and local economies. The U.S. Travel Association estimates that the pandemic has caused over $386 billion in cumulative losses for the industry since March, with some $50 billion in lost federal, state, and local revenues. Over 80% of the industry are small businesses, many if not most of which expect a recovery of well over six months if they survive to start with. Over a quarter of all leisure and hospitality sector workers remain unemployed, double the next most hard-hit industry.

The Visit America Act is the House companion to a U.S. Senate measure previously introduced by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Angus King (I-ME). It thus represents a fully bipartisan, bicameral effort to address the crisis facing U.S. travel and tourism.

The Visit America Act would:

  • Express the sense of Congress that the federal government must work with the industry and other stakeholders toward a visitation goal of 116 million annual travelers to the United States by 2028, an increase of some 25% over pre-COVID numbers;
  • Establish within the Department of Commerce an Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism appointed by the President with responsibilities to set and pursue international visitation goals, ensure public and private sector coordination on travel and tourism, set visa processing goals with the Departments of State and Homeland Security, promote travel exports abroad, and more;
  • Require the Department of Commerce to create a 10-year Travel and Tourism Strategy; and
  • Authorize the creation of a U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

“Travel and tourism are huge contributors to the U.S. economy, especially to major visitor destinations like Hawai‘i, but the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated this vital industry and all of its components including accommodations, transportation, food services and attractions”, said Case, formerly a travel and tourism executive with industry leader Outrigger Enterprises headquartered in Waikiki. “Our bill would ensure a coordinated, high-level federal response to this challenge that delivers critical assistance to affected businesses and their employees as well as state and local economies dependent on tourism and also fully engages the federal government in pursuing long-term success and growth.”

Case continued: “I’m grateful to Senators Sullivan, Schatz, and King for taking the lead in introducing this bill in the Senate, and I’m proud to be joined by my colleagues Congressman Young, Congresswoman Titus, and Congressman Bilirakis in introducing the House companion version.”

"Alaska's tourism sector is a critical component of our economy, but like most other industries, COVID-19 has deeply affected the ability for our businesses to stay afloat," said Congressman Young. "Countless families across our state earn a living from tourism.”

Young continued: “I am proud to help introduce the Visit America Act to support these very families and the businesses they operate. It is vital that our tourism sector rebound. Alaska is unlike any other destination in the country, and it is my sincere hope that tourists from across the world will soon return to experience our great state."

“Nevada’s unemployment rate is the highest in the country because of our dependence on travel and tourism,” said Congresswoman Titus, Co-Chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus.

Titus continued: “We will need the full weight of the federal government to bring jobs back to our state and rebuild even stronger. This bill will ensure that the Department of Commerce allocates time and resources to boost the travel and tourism industry and help communities like Southern Nevada thrive.”

“The tourism and travel industry has been one of Florida’s chief economic drivers, employing nearly one million Floridians and generating nearly $71.8 billion in revenue for the state,” said Bilirakis, who currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus. “As our economy looks to fully rebound, the travel and tourism sectors provide a great opportunity for American growth and prosperity. We must do everything we can to facilitate a safe return to pre-pandemic levels of employment within this critical industry.”

“The global pandemic has shown us how important international travel is to the U.S. economy, and we need to collectively revive this industry in a mindful way for the benefit of Hawai‘i and other U.S. destinations,” said John De Fries, president and Chief Executive Officer of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. “HTA supports the leadership of U.S. Congressman Ed Case in his efforts to responsibly revitalize the visitor industry, which supports our communities, locally and globally.”

“Prior to the pandemic, traveler spending generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, which supported 15.8 million American jobs,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy at the U.S. Travel Association. 

Barnes continued: “This year, due to the coronavirus, the travel economy is expected to lose $1.2 trillion. The Visit America Act would ensure this vital sector of the economy has a national plan for recovery and leadership on par with the rest of the world’s top 30 travel destinations.

“Any economic recovery will require a rebound in travel and tourism, and this legislation ensures federal leadership to fuel a nationwide recovery. We thank Representatives Ed Case, Dina Titus, Gus Bilirakis and Don Young for their leadership on this legislation.”

“More than six months into this pandemic the hotel industry remains in crisis. Thousands of hotels are in jeopardy of closing forever because they cannot afford to pay their mortgages, closing permanently, and causing added stress to the U.S. economy. With hotels in every community across America, the ripple effect will be felt for years. The job loss is staggering already. We need legislation such as the Visit America Act introduced in the House today to help our industry and economy recover,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

“Prior to the pandemic, hotels proudly supported 1 in 25 American jobs—more than 8.3 million in total. Right now, the hotel industry has lost nearly 2 million jobs, with the potential to lose over 3.7 million without additional aid. It is more important ever to have dedicated leadership at the federal level to help steer our industry towards recovery and set important goals for the years ahead.”

Text of the Visit America Act can be found here.

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