WASHINGTON, D.C., May 14, 2009 — Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman, Jay Rasulo appeared on Capitol Hill this week to communicate his strong support on behalf of the Travel Promotion Act. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, seeks to create a nonprofit entity that would execute a nationally coordinated travel promotion program encouraging more people to visit the United States.
Appearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion, Rasulo told the body that, in addition to having a much easier, user-friendly entry process, the United States would greatly benefit by the creation of travel promotional entity that could speak with one voice, to welcome those who have avoided visiting the U.S. since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and more recently, because of the effects of the economic recession.
Rasulo argued that this new, coordinated approach would help to “reverse widespread negative perceptions that the U.S. is unwelcoming to overseas travelers.” He went on to cite research statistics which demonstrate that those who visited the U.S. are “74% more likely to have an extremely favorable opinion of America than those who haven’t traveled here.”
This new public-private entity, Rasulo pointed out, would function as the primary voice on all travel-related policies and help to complement U.S. public diplomacy efforts, adding, “it would combine the expertise of the private sector with the oversight and coordination of the federal government.”
No taxpayer money needed
At a time when the Congress and public are understandably wary of new spending initiatives, Rasulo told the Senators that the U.S. taxpayers would not be asked to fund the proposed entity. Rather, the monies needed to support the endeavor would be derived from a small fee collected from overseas visitors, combined with matching funds from the travel industry. “This isn’t a free ride for industry,” he declared. “We (the travel industry) will be contributing our fair share to make it work.”
The economic benefits of such a well coordinated and executed promotional strategy could be very substantial. After noting that overseas visitors spend an estimated $4,500 per person when they come to the United States, Rasulo told the committee members that “if arrivals had kept pace with global trends since 2001, that would have totaled $182 billion in spending.” This, he argued would be enough to support 245,000 jobs and would have generated an additional $27 billion of revenue to the government in tax receipts.
Disney already contributing
In his statement, Rasulo said that Disney is already contributing to the effort, noting that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts funded and produced a $2.5 million video to welcome overseas travelers to the United States, which it then donated to the federal government. This video is shown at several of the nation’s busiest airports, and can be seen in 105 U.S. consulates and embassies around the world.
Rasulo ended his testimony before the Committee by underscoring the need to do a much better job in promoting the United States to an international audience and by issuing a call to action.
“We need to tell the world about the improvements we have made to the entry process. We need to invite international travelers to visit the United States,” he said. “We need to tell them that they are welcome here.”