Events, Speeches &
Klobuchar Speaks on the Benefits of the Travel Promotion Act
September 8, 2009 | Watch
Thank you, Mr. President. Just as the senator from Nevada was discussing, all of us were home in the last month and heard a lot about health care and I know we'll be having an extensive debate and doing some very important work in that area. We also heard a lot about the economy. Well, this bill is about an industry that one out of eight Americans is employed in- one out of eight Americans. And if there is something we can do, which we know we can do with this bill, to help promote more jobs in this industry without costing taxpayers any money - this is the time to do it.
I want to first thank Senator Dorgan, the senator from North Dakota, for his tireless work for years on this bill. I was listening as Senator Ensign went through all of the wonders in Nevada, and we all know there's some great tourism there. But he failed to mention Teddy Roosevelt Park in North Dakota, a place that I have visited myself. Of course, I hope many people have come to the Mall of America in Minnesota as well as a lot of our beautiful forests and lakes. Every state has something to be proud of when it comes to travel. Today we have the opportunity to help this industry with the Travel Promotion Act, and we should not let it go to waste.
I'm the chair of the commerce subcommittee that deals with tourism, but I also come from a state that values common sense and supports legislation that will create jobs, generate spending, and reduce the deficit. Just look at the numbers. This bill is expected to bring in 1.6 million new international visitors each year- 1.6 million. And do you know how much they spend, Mr. President? They spend $4,500 on average when they come here. You can do the math, 1.6 Million new visitors times $4,500 every single year in this country. In fact, some economists expect the bill to generate $4 billion in new spending and $321 million in new federal tax revenue. It's estimated to create 41,000 new jobs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this bill will reduce the budget deficit by $425 million over the next ten years. Remember these numbers: $4,500 per person for every new visitor, 1.6 million new people every year coming to our country, $4 billion in new spending, 40,000 in new jobs, cost to the taxpayer- zero. During these tough economic times, how could we not pass this bill? How could we not pass it right now when we know it would do so much good?
This past summer I visited, along with my family, many areas in our state, and we did tourism hearings and various events about this bill in Northern Minnesota. I'll be honest, at first I thought, well, they want tourism and it's a big industry in our state, but do they really care about this bill? And that's when I found out that they really do care about this bill because so many visitors traditionally have come down from Canada. And so many barriers from getting the visas processed have affected tourism in Northern Minnesota; in places like Grand Maret, International Falls, Bemidji, and the Brainerd Lakes Area- home of the statue of Paul Bunion and Babe the Blue Ox. Minnesota shares its border with Canada, and I was very surprised at how much interest there was in getting this bill passed. They understand we want to promote our country internationally just like other countries, which Senator Dorgan and Senator Ensign have pointed out, have done for so long. But they also want to make it easier to process visas. As you know, Mr. President, this problem started way before the economy started having troubles. It occurred after 9/11 where, for very good reasons, there was some tighter visa requirements put in place. The problem is that we've gotten so far behind that a lot of people who are living in, say...France, have to think "Am I going to America where maybe it's going to take months to process my visa? Or maybe I'll just go over to England or maybe I'll just go to Japan." And so we need to speed up the process.
We know that tourism creates good jobs that can't be outsourced. It increases sales for local businesses, and it brings in tax revenue for local and state economies. One of my favorite examples is Duluth. It's not Las Vegas but listen to this story. Duluth is a port city that was hit hard by the recession in the 1970's and the early 1980's. My dad is from Northern Minnesota; we go up there a lot, and I could see how much that community was hurting during that time. And at one point it was so bad that they put a billboard, a famous billboard, on the edge of town that said, "Will the last one out, please turn out the lights." Well, the lights are still on in Duluth and they are as bright as ever and a lot of that has to do with tourism. The city has sits on the beautiful Lake Superior, a popular tourist destination, welcoming four million visitors each year with an annual economic impact of over $700 million. Now, we know the tourism industry is feeling the effects of the economic downturn. On top of that, as I mentioned, the US has seen a decline in the tourism industry in the past decade. As we see here, the US share of the world travel market has decreased by nearly 20 percent, costing us hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue. When a traveler decides to go somewhere else besides the United States, there's a ripple effect throughout our economy. You think about the hotels and airlines, but do you know who else you should think about? You should think about the person whose working making beds in the hotel, or the waitress who's working in a restaurant where people would stop by on their drive up, or you think about the florist who's getting those flowers ready for the business conference. Those are all jobs. Those are all jobs in this economy. Last year, nearly 200,000 travel-related jobs were lost and the Commerce Department predicts that we'll lose another 247,000 jobs this year. Well, we can do something about this. We can bring in more travelers. We can create more jobs, and we can boost our economy. That's why we need to pass the Travel Promotion Act.
First, this bill will create the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partnership, to promote the United States as an international travel destination and finally establish a coordinated national tourism program. Senator Dorgan had some amazing charts of some of the work that you've seen from other countries. Indonesia has their own tourism program. Bahamas are enticing people to go there. Scotland, Taiwan, South Africa, and Australia with their kangaroos. What do we have right now? Nothing. Cities are out there, places like New York, places like Las Vegas. Well, it's not as easy for some small resorts in Minnesota or North Dakota or Vermont or New Hampshire to do that, but this is a chance where we can actually promote our country internationally. We are in major competition for international travelers, but we are not competing. In 2005, Greece spent more than $150 million on travel promotions. France spent $63 million. That's what we're up against. It's time for the US to catch up to the rest of the world; it's time for us to play on an even playing field.
Second, the bill will establish the Office of Travel Promotion in the Department of Commerce to work with the secretaries of state and homeland security to make sure those international visitors are processed efficiently. It is time to cut through the red tape so we can get the people that are going to these other countries to come to our country. We have always been a country that has opened our arms to people who want to come and visit. We've been proud of this because we know that it doesn't only have an economic benefit, it also has a diplomatic benefit. People who visit the United States are 74 percent more likely to have a favorable opinion of our country than those who have not visited. As we enter a new era in our international relations, travel can play an important role in building bridges between Americans and people from across the globe. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, this legislation will not cost taxpayers a dime. I think Senator Dorgan did a very good job beginning this session by looking at something that is paid for by a combination of private-sector contributions and a small fee on international travelers, non US taxpayers, who are entering the United States. This is commonsense legislation. Think about the positive ripple effect that will happen as more international visitors visit our country. It will increase sales for businesses ranging from airlines to hotels to those little flower shops. It will increase revenues in our local economy, and it will increase jobs. The US is home to some of the world's wonders, and the Travel Promotion Act will give us the tools we need to promote the United States as a premier travel destination. As chair of the commerce subcommittee that includes tourism, I've seen how important tourism is to communities, both small and large, across our country. We have the opportunity to boost travel and boost our economy, and we just can't let that go to waste. I'm glad that we are debating this bill today. I'm looking forward to this vote and the days that we have here to focus on this. But I urge my colleagues to support this. They've been home. They know that people are crying out for jobs. They know that this is something at no cost to the taxpayer and has bipartisan support which will help to get us there. Let's get this done. Thank you very much.
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1130 1/2 7th Street NW, Room 208
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
121 4th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
Olcott Plaza, Room 105
820 9th Street North
Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690