Virtually every country in the world, large and small, has an official tourism department to woo visitors to its shores. Tiny Tunisia has 24 tourism offices in 19 countries across the globe... America has none, relying instead on the private sector to attract tourists. 'Airlines, tour operators, hotels — they've had the responsibility of promoting America,' says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Forrester Research in San Francisco. 'The government has stayed away from these kinds of initiatives and as a result, we've lost out on travelers.'
You have to get to the seventh paragraphafter 99% of people have stopped reading and you've already passed phrases like "an estimated $4 billion in economic benefits" and "some 40,000 new jobs"before you learn that this is being funded by a fee on "any entering foreign visitor who does not require an entry visa." And nowhere will you learn that the lobbying force behind the bill came from the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, or that local Vegas media bragged about how the fee will be used to "promote Vegas-style tourism."
As we said during the last go-round on this nonsense, we love ourselves some Vegas. But we're far less keen on depressing regional tourism and arguably total tourism just so hoteliers in Vegas can see a local spike.
Since 9/11 there's been a debate over new flying restrictions with extra paperwork, fingerprinting, etc. The left said "these kinds of gratuitous hassles are not in-and-of-themselves impossible burdens, but they create a bad impression of America that severely depresses tourism." And the right responded "it's true that what you call 'gratuitous hassles' leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth and severely depress tourism, but they're necessary for security." Neither side disputed that ticky-tacky regulations, even if they're theoretically easy to bear, create a drip-drip-drip erosion in tourists' desire to visit the United States.
Though we did appreciate how TIME passed along the knee-jerk "but other countries also have fees" argument, which also made an appearance in the comments section of our last post. Fair enough. But those countries aren't dealing with American-wary (and American-weary) travelers always on the lookout for new restrictions and fees on coming into the US.
One final thing: if tourism does drop, which it inevitably will, who's going to make up the funding shortfall?
[Photo: Tom / Wiki Commons]