Travel Rumblings

Like a lot of countries, the US hasn’t weathered the recession that well. Like most countries, it has decided it needs to raise more money. Like some countries, it has decided that tourism is a way of generating additional money. But to get additional tourists it has to advertise and promote itself. How does it do this? By slapping an S10 tax on everyone who wants to visit the country. The money this raises will be matched by up to $100 million of private sector contributions and the whole lot will be spent on promoting tourism.

Sorry, it’s not a tax, it is a fee that will be charged every two years when you apply for the ESTA form which allows you to enter the US in the first place. The only people who won’t have to pay will be Americans and those who have had to pay $131 for a visa

The good news is that although signed into law, no date for its introduction has been announced yet.

Will it make a difference? Will it stop people going there?

Probably not because although it is yet another fee to add to the masses that have appeared for air travelers over the last few years, we pay visa fees for other countries, Australia, China, Egypt, India, and Turkey immediately come to mind so it isn’t unusual. But in the short term might will it cause the opposite effect and reduce tourists as some people resist going there? I don’t think so. A bit of research from a market research agency in the UK, BDRC, recently suggested that about a quarter of us had accepted that we were going to get soaked for baggage charges, seat selection, and other costs. It seems as though some people at least are resigned to the fact that there will be no return to the old days of the price you see is the price you pay.

The campaign by the US will be called “Come to America” and it is hoped to generate another 1.6 million visitors per year. The number of visitors has dropped every year since 9/11 and last year was 2.4 million fewer than the year 2000 despite the fact that, over that time, there has been a big increase in international tourism.

You might have thought that US tourist authorities would object to anything that increases the costs of traveling to the US but no, they have been lobbying enthusiastically for this.

Now Visit Britain, the body that attracts visitors to our shores has lost over £9 million from its budget. You can bet they’ll be looking to see if this idea works and if it does, whether it will push for a similar tax on US visitors coming here. But then our government could be looking at it as another way of bolstering it’s tax coffers anyway and jump first keeping all the money for itself.

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