Rochester, NY – With summer vacations nearing and tourism still lagging, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a roundtable at the George Eastman House with local tourism leaders and unveiled new efforts to help promote New York tourism, one the state’s leading industries and job generators. The cornerstone of her agenda is the Travel Regional Investment Partnership (TRIP) Act, which would create a competitive matching grant program within the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote domestic tourism through local and regional partnerships. Tourism numbers decreased significantly across the nation in 2009, resulting in the loss of 400,000 American jobs and a $100 billion decline in tourism output.
“From world class vineyards in the Finger Lakes to Niagara Falls to the beautiful Adirondacks and all the attractions of New York City, there is absolutely no place better to vacation than New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Visitors add billions of dollars to our state’s economy each year and support thousands of jobs right here at home. Many New Yorkers get their very first job in the tourism industry. As the economy continues to recover, this critical legislation would help promote New York’s tourism and ensure long term growth. I have long advocated for this type of federal initiative into tourism promotion because I believe it would bring tremendous economic opportunity to the families of our state.”
Tourism is a critical industry in New York State. According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers to New York spent $51.3 billion in 2007 and generated $9.9 billion to federal, state and local governments. According to Tourism Economics, the tourism sector supported more than 660,000 jobs in New York last year. The recent economic downturn has taken a toll on the travel and tourism industry nationwide.
The TRIP Act would allow local tourism promotion organizations, such as convention and visitors’ bureaus, to partner with other regional tourism entities, such as parks or resorts, to receive federal funding to market their destination across the United States. Funding would come in the form of matching grants totaling between $100,000 and $1 million. The grants would leverage millions more from the private sector and attract billions in economic activity and consumer spending. The TRIP Act would present New York organizations and localities the opportunity to compete for more resources and leverage public-private partnerships to attract visitors.
The TRIP Act could encourage people across the country to visit New York, and would complement the recently enacted Travel Promotion Act, which was co-sponsored by Senator Gillibrand and aims to encourage tourism from overseas. The TRIP Act is sponsored by Senator Mark Begich in the Senate and Congressman Sam Farr in the House of Representatives.
Senator Gillibrand also joined legislation that would monitor the effects of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) on local tourism. The WHTI Implementation Monitoring Plan to Assure Continued Travel and Trade (IMPACTT) Act would require the Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security and State Department to jointly report to Congress on the implementation of the WHTI, including information on travel, trade, and border security, frequent traveler program enrollment, effectiveness of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffing levels. The IMPACTT Act is sponsored by Senator Patty Murray in the Senate and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in the House of Representatives.
Finally, Senator Gillibrand called on the U.S. Trade Representative to work with the Canadian Government and Province of Ontario to address the inequities in the tax on U.S. wine brought into Ontario. New York is the number three grape producing state in the United States, and in 2008, winery sales alone added $508 million to New York’s economy. Currently, when individuals bring wine purchased in the U.S. into the Province of Ontario, Canada, they are subject to a 12 percent provincial sales tax on top of the normal customs duty that they pay to the Canadian Federal Government. This hurts New York business by making it less attractive for Canadian citizens to enjoy wine produced by one of New York’s many wineries.
In her letter to USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “I believe that equalizing the tax disparity for importing wine and other products for personal use into Ontario will help to facilitate more tourism into the United States and allow more Canadians to enjoy products that New York has to offer. […] During this challenging economic time, we must do all that we can to promote U.S. products and facilitate greater cross-border trade with Canada that will benefit New York producers and retailers.”