Washington, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan and his counterparts from Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have written to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and to Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton of the Energy and Commerce Committee asking that language including the U.S. Territories be included in S. 1023, the Travel Promotion Act of 2009.
The Senate legislation establishes a non-profit Corporation for Travel Promotion in the U.S. Department of Commerce to encourage international travel to the U.S. States and the District of Columbia. The legislation also sets a $10 fee for international travelers entering the U.S., including the Territories.
“The problem with this legislation,” says Sablan, “is that the Territories put money into the program, but don’t get anything in return.
“If international travelers visiting the CNMI are required to pay a $10 fee to fund the Corporation, then the mission of the Corporation should be to encourage travel to all parts of the U.S. – including the CNMI and other U.S. territories.”
The issue was brought to the attention of Sablan by the Marianas Visitors Authority. Sablan then drafted the letter for the benefit of the territorial delegation.
“One of the strengths the U.S. Territories have in Congress is their good working relationship,” according to Sablan. “If any of us spots an issue of concern, we let each other know and work together to solve it.”
In addition to the funding issue, the letter also requests that a representative from the Territories be a board member of the proposed Corporation.
“Tourism is the foundation of our economies, especially international travelers, and we need to ensure the Territories have a voice in promoting international tourism to the United States,” said Kilili.
“This could be a good bill – if it helps us build our tourism trade.”