The U.S. Travel Association today announced that the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, H.R. 1354, has garnered 150 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, roughly split between the two parties.
The announcement came on the heels of new research showing that the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which would be augmented under one of JOLT's provisions, pays incredible economic dividends domestically. According to the study "Visa Waiver Works: Expanding the U.S. Visa Waiver Program Brightens the American Economy and Safeguards Security," spending in the U.S. by visitors from South Korea has increased 52 percent since that country was admitted to VWP in 2008.
"Huge numbers of lawmakers from both parties recognize the clear economic benefits of promoting inbound international travel to the U.S.," said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow. "The minor policy adjustments in the JOLT Act have the potential to pay huge dividends through the visitor dollars that will subsequently flow into the U.S., with zero downside.
"One of the best parts from a legislative standpoint is that travel promotion is an endeavor with bipartisan appeal. We therefore hope that leaders in the House find a legislative vehicle to pass the provisions of the JOLT Act this year."
The JOLT Act milestone is timely upon U.S. Travel's IPW 2014, the premier U.S. travel trade show and the largest generator of travel to the United States, held last week in Chicago. That single event is expected to generate 8.8 million extra visitors to the U.S. over the next three years and generate $28 billion in total visitor spending. "Visa Waiver Works" was released at IPW 2014.
Key provisions of the JOLT Act would:
• Expand the highly successful Visa Waiver Program that enables international travelers from approved countries to enter the U.S. without a visa;
• Expand the Global Entry program that expedites entry for preapproved, low-risk international travelers;
• Mandate expedited visa processing and reduced visa wait times for travelers who wish to visit the United States;
• Facilitate the use of secure videoconferencing to conduct visa interviews by authorizing a pilot program to test feasibility, which would provide increased access to a U.S. visa for potential travelers; and
• Encourage more travel from Canada.
VWP alone, if extended to Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Israel, Panama, Poland, Romania and Uruguay, could increase international visitation by more than 600,000, add more than $7 billion to the U.S. economy and support more than 40,000 additional American jobs. Inbound international travel is America's No. 1 services export.