The number of foreign tourists visiting the United States is not what tourism boosters would like it to be, and Congress is taking steps to promote what America has to offer to foreigners thinking of coming to this country.

Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO7) is among the co-sponsors of what is known as the Travel Promotion Act (HR 1035), which has been approved overwhelmingly in the U.S. House and is expected to pass the U.S. Senate when brought to the floor for a vote. It creates the Corporation for Travel Promotion as an independent nonprofit corporation.

“Every state and every Congressional district is a tourism destination,” said Blunt in a speech on the floor of the House. “In Missouri, whether it’s the St. Louis Arch, the world’s largest sporting goods store in Springfield, Missouri – the Bass Pro Shop, or for the 8.4 million tourists that visited Branson last year, all benefit from tourism and our country benefits from international visitors and international tourism.”

The bill would charge a small fee to foreign visitors – a fee lower than that charged to Americans visiting many European countries.

“This bill does take a creative fee paid by visitors to the United States,” said Blunt.

The fee would be used to promote American tourism destinations abroad. It would amount to $10 (every two years) for foreign visitors who are not required to pay a $131 fee for a visa to enter the United States. Canadians, for example, are not required to have entry visas.

Blunt sees a need to promote tourism overseas because foreign travel to the U.S. has declined in the last year or so.

“After barely recovering to its pre-9/11 numbers in 2007, international tourism took a 17 percent decline,” stated Blunt.

According to figures from the Congressional Budget Office, overseas visitors spend an estimated $4,500 per person while vacationing in this country.

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