Klobuchar Holds Hearing on Strengthening Local Economies Through Tourism

Press Release

Date: Nov. 17, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today held a hearing to discuss strengthening local economies through boosting tourism. John Edman, Director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, testified at the hearing as a witness and highlighted the significant role tourism plays in Minnesota's economy.

Klobuchar has introduced legislation, the International Tourism Facilitation Act, which would help alleviate excessively long wait times for international travelers to receive U.S. visas by allowing the State Department the flexibility to streamline and expand their processing services without compromising the security of U.S. borders or citizens.

"Tourism is about so much more than just hospitality. It's a powerful engine for job creation in Minnesota and across the country, creating better opportunities for American businesses -- from hotels and restaurants to local retail shops to recreation sites,"Klobuchar said. "By cutting through some of the red tape restricting growth in our tourism sector, we can boost international tourism and get the engines of our economy firing again."

International tourism plays an important role in creating U.S. jobs and boosting local economies. In Minnesota, tourism is the fifth largest industry in the state, generating $11 billion in annual sales and providing nearly 11% of total private sector employment. In 2010, each overseas visitor to the United States spent an average of $4,000 during their stay and total international travel spending supported 1.1 million American jobs. Furthermore, the tourism industry added nearly 106,000 jobs in the first seven months of 2011, which represents 10 percent of all jobs created so far this year in the United States.

However, the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in the international tourism market. Oxford Economics and Commerce Department data show that the United States' share of overseas arrivals fell from 17 to 12.4 percent since 2000. By contrast, worldwide long-haul travel grew by 40 percent during this timeframe. Losing one percentage point of the total world international travel market potentially costs the United States 161,000 jobs.

A growing problem for U.S. tourism is the extraordinarily long time foreign visitors have to wait to receive a U.S. tourist visa. In countries such as Brazil, it can take up to 150 days to obtain a United States visa, while it takes Brazilian citizens approximately 12 days to receive a similar visa to the United Kingdom. Klobuchar's legislation would help alleviate the excessively long wait times at some embassies and consulates and help give the State Department the tools and incentives it needs to address this pressing issue.

Klobuchar is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion, which oversees the U.S. tourism industry. She also chairs the Senate Tourism Caucus.