President Obama Thursday enacted legislation to promote international travel to the United States by establishing a national tourism board that would coordinate advertising and other efforts to encourage foreigners to visit the United States.
As a bipartisan group of lawmakers looked on as Obama signed the bill in the Oval Office. The measure is aimed at reversing a decline in foreign visitors to the United States of nearly 10 percent over the past decade.
The board created by the new law would develop advertising and educational campaigns to help potential travelers navigate United States visa requirements and security procedures.
The effort is to be paid for by private sector contributions matched by a $10 fee on foreign visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the United States.
Visitors from those thirty-five countries---which include Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and those comprising the United Kingdom---do not have to pay any fee to acquire a visa, hence the reasoning behind this one. Our neighbors to the north needn't be worried:
U.S. officials told the Toronto Star Canadians would be exempt because of the special relationship between the two countries.The bill has fans in local tourism agencies in Utah, Vermont, and Florida, among others.
I'm certainly not a fan of this logic and of what the fee means, and you can find various takes on this collected on a post by Gadling. A better approach would be to remedy the issues that already keep tourists away, and to address the larger problems that, to borrow a page from what might fit in the Korea Tourism Organization's script, damage the national image.
The only English-language coverage out of Korea I've seen so far has been from the Korea Times Friday evening (their time), which says it'll take five to twelve months before this goes into effect, and:
European countries have opposed the initiative, saying they will impose retaliatory fees on Americans.
Korea will also consider levying a similar tax.
``Korea will need to review whether it is appropriate to impose a reciprocal fee under the visa-free travel program,'' Song Jin-hwan, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said. ``We will keep an eye on the responses of European countries and Japan.''
Song said the number of Koreans travelling to the U.S. jumped to 8.5 percent of the total number of overseas tourists in 2009, up 2.2 percent from the previous year.
American tourists certainly ought to prepare for such retaliatory fees.
The only visual aid I could find, from last September in the 한국경제.