Tourism group pushes for bills to lift foreign visitation

American tourism boosters are turning to the federal government for help reversing a decline in foreign visitation to the United States that’s sapped more than 70 percent of the nation’s travel trade surplus since 1996.

At a forum in Washington, D.C., leaders of America’s tourism industry are pressing Congress to approve two bills that would direct hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private money into programs aimed at reviving foreign visitation levels that dropped sharply after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Critics say the programs smell like a government subsidy for an industry that should use its own money to encourage foreigners to come to the United States to visit resorts, gamble in casinos and tour national parks and other attractions.

Backers say the bills represent an investment that can help rebuild the travel trade surplus from the 2005 level of about $7.4 billion nationally to more than $26 billion, a level it reached in 1996.

Foreign visitation to Las Vegas has rebounded to pre-September 2001 levels. But the rebound is due mainly to an increase in visitors from Canada and Mexico, tourists who generally don’t spend as much or stay as long as overseas guests.

“When folks from other countries are coming here that is the same as selling our products somewhere else,” said Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership, a hospitality industry-funded advocacy group. “American businesses are handicapped. Every other government is spending tens of millions of dollars to compete against us. We are not spending anything.”

The foreign visitation slump is a hot topic in the hospitality industry, which is gathered in Washington today and Thursday for an industry-sponsored lobbying and networking event called the Travel Leadership Summit.

One of the travel bills, scheduled to be introduced today by Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., would create a competitive matching grant program worth up to $50 million over five years. The grants would range in value from $150,000 to $1 million and be used for programs that promote travel to America in the top five international markets for foreign visitors. The money would come from a State Department office for diplomacy and public affairs.

“We also feel like we are falling behind in promoting travel,” said Matt Leffingwell, a spokesman for Porter. “It is an industry that is definitely taken for granted on the hill.”

The other bill, called the Travel Promotion Act of 2007, would create a program operated by private industry and overseen by the secretary of commerce. The program would cost up to $200 million annually, half of which would come from the industry. It would promote travel to the United States by educating people about efforts to reduce the hassles associated with security and bureaucracy that since 2001 have been cited as major factors that repel visitors.

“It is terrible. It is really, really cumbersome,” said Lena Walther of Las Vegas, who travels between the United States and Sweden as often as four times a year and encounters the problems firsthand.

Walther, who operates a Scandinavian furniture showroom in the World Market Center and also the Honorary Consulate of Sweden in Las Vegas, ticked off the list of potential headaches for foreign visitors.

“The security, what you can bring, what you cannot bring, the time it takes, the lost luggage,” she said. “It truly is no fun to travel internationally anymore.”

Freeman said the Travel Promotion Act would help attract visitation by using a new $10 fee charged to foreign visitors to educate audiences abroad about post-Sept. 11 travel policies.

The campaign would try to reverse the perception that since Sept. 11 America is hostile to foreign visitors.

“This fee would be directed to one of the biggest complaints travelers have, that is better communicating our travel policies,” Freeman said.

Others question whether it is even appropriate for the government to act on the hospitality industry’s behalf.

Steve Ellis of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said government programs aimed at benefiting certain categories of economic development tend to outlive their usefulness and encourage waste by artificially buffering companies against economic risk.

“We have a profit-loss economy,” Ellis said. “If you don’t ever have a loss, the whole system falls apart.”

Ellis cited a post-Sept. 11 decision by the federal government to subsidize terrorism insurance coverage. He said the program was intended to be a short-term fix to the immediate fallout of the attacks on a segment of the insurance industry. Instead, “The House just voted to extend it 15 years. By doing that we are creating a whole new line of responsibility for the federal government.”

Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Facial recognition software at G2E – Todd Prince
Shing Tao, CEO of Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings, talks about his facial recognition product. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Bobby Baldwin to leave MGM
MGM Resorts International executive and professional poker player Bobby Baldwin is set to leave MGM.
Caesars has new armed emergency response teams
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has created armed emergency response teams. They are composed of former military and law enforcement officials. "These teams provide valuable additional security capabilities,” Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said. Caesars is hiring Security Saturation Team supervisors, managers and officers, according to LinkedIn. The company did not say how many people it plans to hire for the units. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas, airlines prepare for CES
CES in January is expected to attract more than 180,000 attendees. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
AGS partners with Vegas Golden Knights
AGS is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of Class II slot machines used primarily in tribal jurisdictions. It announced a marketing partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
Project billed as one of the world's largest marijuana dispensaries plans to open Nov. 1
Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler talks about what to expect from the new marijuana dispensary, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Oasis Biotech opens in Las Vegas
Brock Leach, chief operating officer of Oasis Biotech, discusses the new plant factory at its grand opening on July 18. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like