Government Gone Wild: The Absurdity of the U.S. Travel Promotion Act

Last Updated Mar 2, 2010 2:05 AM EST

The Travel Promotion Act, which passed through Congress on Feb. 25 and will likely be signed into law by President Barack Obama, is another case of, "The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy."

As BNET reported earlier, the Travel Promotion Act is a bill that would require foreign visitors who qualify for visa-free travel to register online and renew that registration once every two years. All visitors, mostly from Europe, would have to pay a $10 fee when they register. According to proponents, the money raised would be used to promote travel and educate foreign visitors on the new online registration process and security measures. In essence, the fee is being added to create another tier of government, a Corporation for Travel Promotion board, that will promote the self-same $10 registration process it created. The bill has now changed to add some matching private funds to bankroll the new board to become a national tourism board able to launch ad campaigns:

"It's absolutely counterintuitive," said Steve Lott, a spokesman for International Air Transport Association, which represents the airline industry.

"To us, we're saying we'd love to see more people visit the United States, but we're going to charge you more for the privilege of entering the country," he added. "We are in favor of increased tourism and visitation... but let's look at our priorities. We don't think that videos and billboards are necessarily a priority. Instead, we should be focusing on how to make customs and immigration easier for people."

Aside from annoying visitors with the fees, why is the bill necessary? Each state of the union has its own tourism board, one which probably serves the needs of that state better than any umbrella tourism board would. Yet, the U.S. Travel Association claims that an additional 1.6 million foreign visitors would come if the bill passes into law, as well as $4 billion and 24,000 jobs.

That's a lot to promise for a $10 fee, isn't it? And even if those Congressional Budget Office projections are true, 1.6 million more visitors isn't a lot of gain. California alone had 13.4 million foreign visitors in 2008. So what it all comes down to: Is the $10 fee going to annoy or attract more foreign visitors?

I'm going with the annoying part. Why are we collecting a fee for a board that shouldn't exist in the first place? And why create a fee to hinder rather than help foreign travel? This whole bill and situation is government waste at its worst, and will actually hurt rather than help our country.

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