Members of Congress are looking to grassroots travel agents to speak up in support of the travel industry.
That was the theme of messages from Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) speaking to industry members at the Grassroots Congressional Travel Summit in Washington, D.C., in early May.
Travel agents should push their representatives and senators to join the bipartisan Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus (CTTC), said Farr, co-chair of the caucus with Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.).
The caucus is looking for support from across Congress for issues that are critical to the travel industry, including travel sellers.
Agents can create ‘buzz’
Travel agents also can help get the VISIT USA Act passed by Congress, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, (D-Hawaii) told Travel Market Report.
Hirono’s measure, House Bill 3341, would ease the visa process for visitors to the U.S., especially those from key markets of China and Brazil, she said.
“Agents can help by contacting their representatives to create a buzz for this bill,” she said.
Chinese travel market
“Fifteen million Chinese are traveling every year, but there are only five U.S. consulates in China for visa clearance,” she said. “We make it too difficult for them to come to the U.S.”
Her bill would allow Chinese visitors to apply for five-year, multiple entry visas and set up a videoconference pilot program to conduct visa interviews, among other provisions.
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Farr, who has been involved with the Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus for years, noted that travel is “finally getting the recognition” it deserves for its economic impact.
Travel and tourism’s job-creating power has caught the attention of lawmakers from both parties, he noted.
Farr attributes this newfound appreciation to more accurate measurements of the economic activity that travel creates.
As Farr noted, “Obama is the first president to actually develop a national travel and tourism strategy.” That strategy was announced during the Travel Summit. (See “White House Launches National Tourism Strategy, an Historic First,” May 10, 2012.)