Biden Signs Law Funding New U.S. Tourism Czar

Travel

Skift Take

Nearly every other country has a tourism minister or tourism secretary. In a halfway fix, the U.S. Congress passed funding bills Friday that included money to hire an assistant secretary of commerce for travel and tourism.

The U.S. Senate passed key government funding bills Friday evening — with one that included funding for the office of the assistant secretary of commerce for travel and tourism, the U.S. Travel Association said.

President Joe Biden signed the legislation Saturday, setting up the Commerce Department to fill the role.

Congress created the assistant secretary position in 2022 with the aspiration of ensuring that travel issues receive a more coordinated government focus. A top goal is to enable the U.S. to draw 90 million international visitors a year by 2027.

The new official’s purpose will be to craft a strategy for maxing out the economic potential of the travel sector in communities nationwide as they vie to attract international visitors and host major conventions and sports events. Partly this will be done by encouraging interagency coordination.

“Funding this critical position is a step in ensuring the long-term global competitiveness of the U.S.,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, which had lobbied extensively to create and fund the position.

At the Skift Global Forum last September, Freeman cautioned that the position wouldn’t be a ‘panacea’ for issues facing the U.S. travel industry.

“You look at so many of our challenges in the Department of Transportation, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of ‘Let’s keep people from traveling’ – across the federal government and people in the Department of Commerce are going to be limited in their ability to solve those problems,” Freeman said.

It’s unclear how long it will take the Biden Administration to fill the position. In December, the administration swore in Alex Lasry as the new deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism at the Commerce Department. Lasry oversees the National Travel and Tourism Office, in the International Trade Administration’s industry and analysis division. 

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