Businesses hope new promotion initiative attracts foreign touristsWhen Sen. Amy Klobuchar began supporting the Travel Promotion Act — a bill with a small surcharge on foreign travelers to help promote U.S. tourism — she said she didn’t see much benefit for Minnesota.
By: Andy Greder, Duluth News Tribune
When Sen. Amy Klobuchar began supporting the Travel Promotion Act — a bill with a small surcharge on foreign travelers to help promote U.S. tourism — she said she didn’t see much benefit for Minnesota.
That was until the senator traveled to outposts such as Grand Marais and Bemidji, where residents told her the bill could bring an influx of Canadian tourists.
“At first, to be honest, I thought it could help some,” Klobuchar said. “Then they said it could lure more Canadians tourists and, in that way, it could be very helpful.”
Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion, helped lead the passage Wednesday of the Travel Promotion Act, which charges a $10 fee on foreign travelers to then market tourism in the U.S. and ease tourism visa applications. A similar bill awaits passage in the House.
“We are thrilled because it will set the stage for our activities,” said Cheryl Offerman, international marketing manager for Explore Minnesota Tourism.
The number of foreign travelers arriving in Minnesota via the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport is conservatively estimated at 250,000 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, with another 600,000 coming from Canada, Offerman said.
To help ease traffic with our northern neighbors, Canadian travelers will be exempt from the fee.
“I sure hope so,” said Gene Shaw, spokesman for Visit Duluth. “We get our fair share of Canadians that come over the border to shop and stay overnight, and we welcome them.”
Klobuchar said the bill could help the country gain back the 20 percent reduction in foreign tourists coming here since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“This is finally a way for the country to market itself in a concerted way,” she said.
“They spend an average of $4,500 per trip, so we’ve lost a ton of money.”
This bill would help replace the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration, a division of the State Department that was the victim of budget cuts in the 1990s, Offerman said.
“We worked very closely with those offices and got more than our fair share of attention,” Offerman said.
While the Travel Promotion Act will probably be a boon for places such as Las Vegas or New York City, Shaw doesn’t believe it will provide an influx of travelers to Duluth.
“It’s not going to be real plentiful,” Shaw said. “There are some foreign travelers, but we don’t know how many. I’m not sure it will have a significant impact on the tax base for Duluth.”