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New Travel Promotion Act Aims to Boost U.S. Tourism

The Senate recently passed the Travel Promotion Act, a measure designed to promote the U.S. abroad and educate foreign visitors about U.S. security policies and entry requirements. The Act stipulates that a new Corporation for Travel Promotion, funded by the government and private sector, will oversee those tasks.

Seems innocuous, even bland, doesn’t it? But the devil is in the details in this case, specifically in the government’s portion of the funding. This money would come from a $10 fee imposed on visitors from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, which enables citizens of 35 countries to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The private sector will match each $10 fee paid.

Not surprisingly, the fee isn’t sitting well with many in Europe, and the Daily Mail reports the E.U. is considering retaliation. “Only in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed,” the European Commission’s Ambassador to Washington, John Bruton, said Friday.

Fees like this are not exactly a new idea. Our own Ed Perkins recently wrote that many countries tack on fees, often to fund infrastructure improvements at airports. But funding a program designed to attract foreign travelers by charging the very visitors it hopes to attract? That seems downright silly to me, especially if it leads individual European countries or, worse, the entire E.U., to impose fees on American travelers.

Readers, what do you think? Is this a case of good idea/bad execution? Is it fair to ask visitors to pony up some extra cash when traveling to the States? Leave a comment below with your opinion.

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