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December 9, 2015

U.S. Travel Association: Visa Waiver Disruption Could Hurt Economy




The U.S. Travel Association has released a statement in support of the House passage of bipartisan legislation to bolster the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). 

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO called the legislation a "thoughtful option to allay concerns about the program while preserving many of its economic and security benefits."

Dow said, "Here the House has put on a textbook demonstration of how policy ought to be created—with a bipartisan, substantive, deliberative discussion of the problems at hand that rose above political gamesmanship. Our thanks and congratulations go to Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul and Rep. Candice Miller, as well as leaders on both sides of the aisle, for proving that legislating need not be a zero-sum game."

U.S. Travel also endorses a companion to the House legislation introduced in the Senate by Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson. The association continues to oppose an early proposal from Senators Dianne Feinstein and Jeff Flake, which includes some significant flaws—notably, a measure requiring the additional collection of biometric information from VWP travelers prior to departure, which U.S. Travel has called inefficient, costly and redundant.

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The U.S. could pay a steep price for missteps in amending the VWP, U.S. Travel said in research published today. Proposed new requirements such as the collection of biometric information included in the Feinstein-Flake VWP bill are seemingly redundant to existing policy and would make it more difficult for legitimate, pre-screened travelers to visit the U.S. This increased burden on VWP partner countries would without question deter a number of the 14 million first-time visitors expected to enter the country under the VWP in the next five years—along with the $54.4 billion in direct spending, $125.1 billion in total economic output and 111,000 new jobs they are projected to support.

If half of VWP travelers are discouraged from visiting the U.S. by harmful changes to the program, the economic cost to the U.S. would be $27.2 billion in direct spending, $62.6 billion in total economic output and 55,500 jobs supported.

But if even one in ten VWP travelers stays away, the report says, the harm would amount to $5.4 billion in direct spending, $12.5 billion in economic output and 11,000 jobs supported.

"We're not saying that Congress should ignore security issues—we're always the ones to say security must come first, because without security there can be no travel," said Dow. "What we're saying is that lawmakers need to be aware of the economic consequences of their policy decisions. We're saying it's possible to pass a package that lays to rest the worries about the integrity of the VWP without the negative economic fallout, and the House—and now, the Senate as well—provides evidence of that."

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