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New campaign to promote travel to U.S.

Passports and visas

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Malaysia, like a lot of countries around the world, relies on ad campaigns to attract tourists. But not the United States. The House of Representatives passed a bill this week to change that. And now the Senate's chiming in. Elizabeth Threlkeld has more.


Elizabeth Threlkeld: International travel worldwide has risen by nearly 40 percent since 2000. But the number of foreigners visiting the U.S. actually dropped. Many blame tougher visa and entry requirements put in place since 9/11.

So Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt wants to send a new message to travelers:

Bill Delahunt: Welcome to the United States.

Delahunt is a lead sponsor of a bill that would launch a massive promotional campaign for America abroad. Overseeing it would be a new non-profit under the Department of Commerce called the Corporation for Travel Promotion. Some states and tourist attractions already run ads overseas.

But that's not enough, says Adam Sacks, managing director of Oxford Economics USA.

ADAM SACKS: It's one thing that New York and Las Vegas and California have international campaigns, but there is no brand America being developed.

Delahunt's bill would charge visitors from countries without visa requirements a $10 fee. The Corporation for Travel Promotion would get up to $100 million of that money each year. And the U.S. travel industry would match it in private donations.

It's a good deal, says Geoff Freeman, Senior Vice President with the U.S. Travel Association.

GEOFF FREEMAN: We are so affected by the downturn in travel that we're willing to put hard cash on the table to bring more visitors to the United States.

The promotional campaign would explain the U.S. entry process step by step. Still, the European Union complains forcing some travelers to pay a fee is hardly welcoming. But it will help America's bottom line. The program is projected to reduce the budget deficit by $425 million in the next 10 years. The Senate will vote on the bill in the next couple weeks.

In Washington, I'm Elizabeth Threlkeld for Marketplace.

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