US mulls $10 fee for UK tourists

Hotel News - 18/09/2009

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An overwhelming vote of 79-19 for The Travel Promotion Act, passed by the US Senate last week, may soon lead to an additional $10 minimum fee being slapped on tourists from the UK and other ESTA countries.

The collection fee would be enforced through the ESTA pre-registration system, which applies to all visitors from visa-waiver countries. The additional charge is expected to be in place by late 2009. Earlier this year, the US made it mandatory for people visiting the country through the visa-waiver programme to register themselves online at least 72 hours in advance of travel. The registration will have to be renewed every two years.

Slapping on an extra fee on tourists is, incongruously enough, being considered as a means to reverse the declining numbers of overseas visitors. The scheme aims to generate funds to boost the image of the US in foreign countries.

Tourist numbers to the US have nose-dived in 2009, much like for other countries around the world. An 8% drop in visitor numbers is anticipated for 2009, when compared with the last year. Tourist spending is also plummeting, and a 15% drop on last year's figures for the same period has been recorded so far.

Critics of the new legislation have pointed out that the new fee imposed on would-be visitors may actually prove a deterrent, and lead to fewer people visiting the US. The EU has warned it may impose retaliatory measures.

Supporters of the bill say this is just a nominal fee.

Foreign travellers constitute a huge market for American tourism. Overseas visitors, while accounting for only 20% of travel to New York, generate 48% of visitor spending in the city.

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