When the travel industry converges on Capitol Hill this spring, it will speak with one voice on major issues, including visa reform, reauthorizing Brand USA and funding national parks.
Steve Richer, the National Tour Association’s (NTA) public affairs advocate, said Destination: Capitol Hill represents the first time numerous industry groups – working together under the umbrella of the U.S. Travel Association – will join forces to present a single voice for tourism.
The event is scheduled for April 10 to 11 in Washington, D.C.
With U.S. Travel at the helm, “we’ll now have a synergistic approach in Washington,” Richer said. “In the past we were different industries; we will now be positioned as the travel sector.”
The industry’s primary issues include:
• Visa reform. This ongoing campaign is aimed at reducing wait times for visas and adding more visa waiver countries. The State Department recently cut wait times for Brazil and China. The industry wants to add several countries to the visa waiver list, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Israel and Poland.
• Reauthorizing Brand USA. The Travel Promotion Act, which established created Brand USA, must be renewed by 2015 to assure the organization’s future as a public/private partnership to promote travel to the U.S.
• National parks funding. Increased funding for operating, marketing and maintaining the national park system is key to both domestic and international tourism, said Richer.
• Continuing in-flight surveys of travelers. Launched in 1983 by the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, the Survey of International Air Travelers Program surveys collects information from air passengers on travel patterns, spending and demographics. It surveys both non-U.S. residents traveling to the U.S. and Americans traveling outbound. Ending the program would mean the loss of invaluable research and insights on the travel market, Richer said.
Replaces three events
Richer said Destination Capitol Hill, envisioned as an annual event, will replace three separate events held in the past: NTA’s Congressional Grass Roots Travel Summit, U.S. Travel’s Grass Roots Boot Camp and the Southeast Tourism Society’s Congressional Summit.
“If you want to get heard in Washington, there just isn’t enough clout if you do it yourself,” said Richer.