Hoteliers are at the forefront of efforts both nationally and internationally to improve travel and tourism in the United States. Simply put, travel and tourism are two of the most important components of our growing American economy and workforce, generating $2.1 trillion a year in economic output, $141.5 billion in tax revenues, and supporting 15 million jobs.
In fact, 1 out of 9 American jobs depend on travel and tourism, and travel is among the top 10 industries in 49 states and D.C. in terms of employment. Eighty-four percent of travel and tourism-related companies are considered small businesses, driven largely by hard-working hotel owners.
Despite the clear economic impact of tourism funding and the return on investment it generates for taxpayers, many states continue to cut funding to their tourism promotion programs. When money is cut from tourism promotion, hoteliers in those states are put at a severe disadvantage in marketing their businesses and attracting customers.
AAHOA supports efforts at the state level to increase tourism funding and improve strategies for effective tourism promotion. The AAHOA Government Affairs team will continue to advocate on behalf of budget proposals that reflect the importance of travel and tourism on economic growth and job creation.
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was created in 1986 in an effort to facilitate tourism and increase short-term business visits to the United States. The program allows citizens from designated countries to travel up to 90 days without first obtaining a tourist (B1/B2) visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
In 2014 alone, more than 20.3 million travelers arrived through the VWP, generating $190 billion in economic output and supporting nearly one million jobs. These travelers stay an average of 18 nights and spend nearly $4,400 per person per trip.
Because of its direct economic impact on the travel and tourism community, AAHOA has pushed legislative initiatives to ensure that the program continues to strengthen and expand. There are currently nine countries in between road map and eligibility status to become partners in the VWP.
With the proper infrastructure in place, increasing access to closely allied countries will create American jobs, encourage local economic growth, and enhance U.S. security through international information sharing.
At the end of the 2015 session, AAHOA supported the Visa Waiver Improvement Act of 2015 (HR 158). Legislators included text from this bill in the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations Bill, which was signed into law. The provisions in this bill strengthened the VWP through technological and security advancements.
As coalition partners with the U.S. Travel Association, AAHOA will continue to support measures that aim to strengthen and expand the VWP.