IITA leadership serves in key industry positions – U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and the US Travel Association Board of Directors – representing the collective voice of inbound operators. We weigh in on issues that will increase international visitation and ensure they have quality service and experiences while in the United States. Our priority issues Include:
JOLT Act to Expand International Tourism to the U.S. and Increase National Security
Late last week, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Tom Rice (SC-07), introduced the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, a bipartisan effort to increase national security, reform outdated visa laws, spur tourism and create jobs.
The JOLT Act of 2018 importantly renames the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership Program, which better reflects the mutual benefits shared by the U.S. and partner countries. Additionally, the bill allows for an expansion of the program by incentivizing intelligence sharing and the modernization of travel infrastructure, both of which are critical to U.S. national security.
“As Members of Congress, we want two things: to keep our constituents safe from harm and help them achieve the American Dream,” said Rep. Quigley. “The JOLT Act accomplishes both of those objectives by stimulating economic activity and improving national security. By updating outdated visa laws, we can drive tourism and job growth in our cities and assist the U.S. intelligence community with their mission to spot and stop terrorist threats.”
“The JOLT Act will enhance our economic competitiveness and strengthen national security by modernizing the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which facilitates streamlined travel into the United States for pre-approved travelers from member countries,” said Rep. Rice. “Expanding the VWP will support the U.S. travel industry, create American jobs, and bring more tourism dollars to South Carolina – all while bolstering our homeland security and counterterrorism efforts.”
In 2016, 22 million people traveled to the U.S. from Visa Waiver Program countries, accounting for 59% of overseas arrivals to the U.S. Travelers from these countries generated more than $90 billion for the U.S. economy, accounting for 44% of travel exports to all overseas countries.
In order to protect the homeland and ensure VWP countries adhere to U.S. security standards, the JOLT Act requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to enforce security requirements that were previously considered discretionary. Among the requirements for program countries are:
- maintaining high level airport security standards,
- assisting in the operation of an effective air marshal program,
- maintaining the highest level of security standards when issuing passports and travel documents,
- cooperating with the United States’ initiatives toward combating terrorism, and
- cooperating with the United States intelligence community in sharing information regarding terrorist threats.
The Secretary is required to report to Congress on each VWP country’s adherence to these provisions.
Since biometric or e-passports are the most secure travel documents available, the JOLT Act also closes an electronic passport requirement loophole that previously allowed citizens of the 27 counties participating in the VWP before 2008 to use non-electronic passports if those passports were issued before October 2006. The JOLT Act would require that all individuals from program countries use e-passports.
“IITA has long advocated for reducing barriers international travel to the U.S. and we applaud the bipartisan effort by Representatives Quigley and Rice to expand the Visa Waiver Program and strengthen our national security,” said Executive Director Lisa Simon. “The JOLT Act stimulates the nation’s economy, creating more jobs, and supports the broad U.S. inbound travel industry, which is critical to our members businesses.”
National Parks – Access and Funding
New! Access IITA’s “Cheat Sheet: A Quick Guide to NPS Commercial Use Authorization Requirements here.
As individual national parks deal with over-crowding, visitor restrictions and fee structures, IITA is working with the National Park Service to ensure the industry can provide input in the decision-making process to address the needs and concerns of our international visitors.
IITA supports legislation for infrastructure funding, specifically S. 751 National Park Service Legacy Act, to address the $12 billion backlog of maintenance, repairs and updates throughout the countries national park system.
Welcome Message and Entry Issues
IITA is encouraging policymakers to mitigate the possible unintended consequences of the Executive Order travel ban and aggressive security steps with a strong welcome message and policies that encourage legitimate international travel to the U.S. We support strong security measures and believe that security and facilitation of inbound travel are not mutually exclusive. We’re beginning to see hesitation from different markets due to a lack of clarity on how or if there are new visa processing procedures being implemented more broadly.
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program supports the necessary security demands because it requires increased security screening and collaboration from participating countries. The U.S. should utilize this program to support the needs of both enhanced security and increased travel and tourism to the country – which is the number one services export. For the latest, see article on the JOLT Act at the start of this page.