The U.S. Travel Association testified this week before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in support of two bills the travel industry believes are critical to ensuring the nation’s long-term competitiveness in the global travel market.

The Visit America Act (H.R. 6965) would establish an Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism position at the U.S. Department of Commerce, direct the Commerce Secretary to set inbound visitation goals and a national travel and tourism strategy, and direct the Commerce Secretary to facilitate U.S. bids for large international events and trade shows.

“This is a crucial provision to ensure that the U.S. does not miss out on major international events, which generate substantial economic impact for local communities,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for U.S. Travel.

U.S. Travel also advocated for passage of the Travel and Tourism Act (H.R. 7820), which also calls for the Commerce Department to adopt a travel and tourism recovery strategy, but pressed for inclusion of the two provisions in the Visit America Act that establish an Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism and direct Commerce to support and facilitate U.S. bids for international events.

“The U.S. is the only G20 country without a federal agency or cabinet-level official in charge of tourism policy,” Barnes testified. “Establishing an Assistant Secretary would put the U.S. on par with its top competitors for tourism and provide a high-level official to work with our partners across the world on travel facilitation issues.”

Barnes said international travel spending in 2021 was 78 percent below pre-pandemic levels and business travel spending in general was down 56 percent.