U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) launched the U.S. Senate Travel & Tourism Caucus today, a bipartisan caucus that will work to promote common-sense policies that reduce barriers to travel and raise awareness of the importance of job-creating travel and tourism industry. Klobuchar, Begich and Blunt serve on the U.S. Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the U.S. tourism industry.
"Tourism is a powerful engine for job creation both in Minnesota an nationally," said Klobuchar. "Every state has an economic interest in the tourism industry and we need to continue to look at new ways to cut red tape for businesses and travelers to help promote the United States as a world travel destination. By attracting new visitors from abroad, we can stimulate economic growth and help our businesses, with no cost to taxpayers."
"Tourism is one of our nation's greatest renewable resources," said Begich. "For generations, tourism in Alaska has been a success story. Alaska's awe-inspiring scenery generates thousands of jobs, and drives billions of dollars of spending in our local economy every year. I'm ready to work with other senators to increase both domestic and international tourism."
"Travel and tourism are an important part of Missouri's economy, as 36 million visitors traveled to see our wide range of attractions last year, creating jobs and generating nearly $7.5 billion in revenue for the state," said Blunt. "By streamlining the entry process for travelers worldwide, we can help spur much-needed private sector job creation in Missouri and across America and add billions of dollars to our nation's economy annually."
"My hope is that this new, bipartisan caucus will increase appreciation for the wide range of travel opportunities offered across the nation that represents billions of dollars in jobs and revenue for the U.S. economy," Kirk said. "With one of the world's busiest airports and cultural attractions that rival those of any city, Chicago stands to benefit from increased tourism from visits to sporting events, museums, and historic sites."
According to the U.S. Travel Association, travelers to the United States spend an average of $4,500 per visit, and tourism contributes over $700 billion to the U.S. economy annually. The U.S. Senate Travel & Tourism Caucus will evaluate ways the U.S. Department of State and other agencies can cut red tape to increase the speed of visa applications for foreign travelers in order to help America better compete with other global destinations. The group will also focus on the implementation of the Travel Promotion Act (TPA), which is projected to bring an additional 1.6 million visitors to the United States and add $4 billion to the nation's economy annually with no cost to taxpayers. Klobuchar, Begich, and Blunt all co-sponsored the bipartisan legislation, which was signed into law in March 2010.
Klobuchar is the Chairman and Blunt is the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion that oversees the U.S. tourism industry.