Advocating for Key Industry Issues on Capitol Hill

The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) had the opportunity to lead a group of Active and Associate Members to Washington, DC, June 14-15 to advocate for key industry issues. The 2022 Congressional Caucus was particularly meaningful as it was also the 10th anniversary that we participated in this event – and during our 50th anniversary year.

We were determined to successfully communicate the significance of the travel and tourism industry to jobs and economic stability in the US, and the contribution of the tour operator members of USTOA.

Promoting Tourism Growth

Four days prior to the caucus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the long-awaited news about lifting the pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirement to enter the US This strengthened our resolve to meet with legislators to reinforce the importance of protecting and promoting growth for the travel industry.

The caucus commenced with remarks from Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), author of the recently passed Restore Brand USA Act to restore funding to promote travel to the US from abroad. Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY) later addressed the group about her eight years in Congress and the need for true “across-the-aisle” collaboration.

Removing Barriers

Tori Barnes, executive vice president-public affairs and policy for the US Travel Association, advocated further removal of barriers to international visitors as well as increasing visas for the understaffed hospitality industry. Additional speakers included Kim Graber, deputy assistant general counsel-office of aviation enforcement and proceedings for the US Department of Transportation; Darien Flowers, deputy policy director-committee on commerce, science and transportation at the US Senate; and Julie Heizer, deputy director, US Department of Commerce.

Congressional Meetings

Following the morning program, teams of USTOA members visited the Capitol for meetings with leading members of Congress. Among the key issues addressed were the need to permanently revoke pre-arrival testing, which currently is undergoing a 90-day review; support of the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act (known as Tour Bus) to appoint a Cabinet-level official to oversee the tourism sector; expedited visa and passport processing; restoration of the Employee Retention Tax Credit to provide much-needed COVID-19 economic relief; increased funding of the national parks; and expansion of the Visa Waiver Program.

All in all, we had a successful couple of days spent at the nation’s capital advocating for key issues. I am extremely grateful to our members who participated and appreciative of the time each speaker and member of Congress spent with the USTOA teams.

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