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Greetings and salutations fellow Tour Managers and Tour Guides. If you are reading this it is a good sign that you have weathered the storm and stayed a steady course. We are still feelings the effects of this historic economic tempest, but better days of smooth sailing are ahead. We can still expect lower passenger bookings for 2010 then we have been accustomed to in years past, but expectations are for a brighter 2011 and so on.

To keep the metaphor going, one big gust in the sails of the US market is the Travel Promotion Act. It has passed the Senate by a 79 to 19 margin which displays strong bipartisan support. Though the House passed a similar bill during the last session the Senate did not due to time constraints.

The bill must pass both houses during the same two year session of Congress in order for the bill to be eligible to become a law. Hopefully we can look forward to this passage in the near future.

According to Oxford Economics, this law is estimated to create 40,000 jobs in the US and drive $4 billion in new consumer spending. This creates a very strong demand for experienced Tour Managers and Guides. This entire economic stimulus occurs without a dime coming out an American’s pocket. The “Travel Promotion Act,” introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John Ensign (R-NV) and co-sponsored by 51 Senators, is modeled after successful state-level programs and is funded through a matching program featuring up to $100 million in private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers who do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the United States. The fee is collected once every two years in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

But every good sailing captain knows that calm seas do not last forever. Many in the EU have scoffed at this proposed law and have labeled it an American Tourism Tax. There have been talk of a reciprocal charge on Americans visiting the EU, but nothing yet has been set in stone. Hopefully we can all see the big picture of some new stimulus during tough economic times. This $10 fee is similar to a departure tax which many countries have already implemented, and much smaller then the new airline luggage fees. Considering that the average visitor to the US spends about $4500 and that the dollar has fallen off to most major currencies, we are still a country on sale. Furthermore, it is the hopes of those who enjoy travel in the US that the trickle down benefit of this fee helps us to revitalize our tourism economy which in turn will enable us to have the means to provide a better customer experience.

I hope that you will not hear any complaints about this new fee, but now you have some talking points to show the positive big picture of such a measure. Suffice it to say, when all hands are on deck, I will be happy to be at the helm of a tour and show the beauty of America, from sea to shining sea.

Scott MacScott CTM



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