United States considering $10 "tourist fee" to pay for promoting tourism

A proposal currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress may soon charge visitors to the United States a $10 entry fee. [via gadling]

The fee will go into a fund used to pay for promoting tourism. By now, I can imagine you are laughing about this (unless you don't live in the U.S.). The concept of having tourists pay for the PR activities of a country they are already visiting is completely insane.

The idea behind the bill is that promoting tourism should not cost the U.S. taxpayer, something I completely disagree with.

The European Union is obviously against the concept, and given the hassles tourists already encounter when they come to the country, I have to agree with them.

The $10 tourism sponsorship fee would be linked to the ESTA pre-registration system currently required for all visitors from visa waiver countries. When ESTA was introduced, foreigners were told that it would always be free, and by hiding the new fee as a "tourism sponsorship fee", the government obviously thinks they are keeping their word. The site currently says that there may be a fee in the future.

A family of five will have to pay $50, just for the right to travel to the States, in addition to any new luggage fees imposed by the airlines. This means a trip to the United States could start costing about $400 more than it used to - a price many people may simply refuse to pay, making them head elsewhere instead.

As always in the tit-for-tat world of immigration, if the U.S. pushes ahead with this, expect other nations to do the same to Americans heading abroad.

The end result could easily be a really well filled tourism promotion fund, but another slump in tourism and American tourists having to pay a reciprocal fee whenever they visit Europe.

One other thing to keep in mind, is that this fee (if implemented through ESTA) will most likely require a debit or credit card, something not everyone abroad possesses. ESTA itself is a horrible system, because it requires a computer to access, locking out anyone without Internet access. Now the penalty could be double - you'll need Internet access and a credit card if you want to visit the US of A.

The bill in question, and all details about the proposal can be found here: Travel promotion act of 2009. The bill calls for a non-profit company to manage the money, and proposes to fund it with $100,000,000 in its first year.

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