Travel Promotion Act signed into law; visitors to U.S. who don’t require visa to be hit with $10 fee

We’ve given you our skeptical takes on the proposed Travel Promotion Act before (see here and here, for starters), but it appears our complaints have fallen on deaf ears. President Obama signed the Travel Promotion Act (TPA) into law earlier today.

What does the new law do, and why are we against it? Well, the TPA establishes a non-profit corporation charged with promoting travel to the United States, and it also creates an Office of Travel Promotion that will be run by the Department of Commerce. Sounds great, right? Until you realize how the act is paid for– by a $10 tax on all visitors to the United States who do not require visas. (We’re lookin’ at you, most of Europe.)

Of course, because the new law does not require any U.S. taxpayer dollars, it was passed with bipartisan support. Apparently the stupidity of taxing visitors to the U.S. in order to encourage them to visit was lost on most of the U.S. Congress.

The European Union– no surprise– is displeased by the new legislation, and is considering retaliating against it by charging U.S. visitors to Europe a $10 fee.

As I’ve noted before, there’s a better, cheaper way to promote foreign travel to the United States:

Add more countries to the Visa Waiver Program. Stop requiring every visitor to the US (except those from the 35 “low-risk” countries already in the program) to go through the hassle, expense, and impossibly long wait that obtaining a visa inevitably entails.

Another skeptical look at the TPA here. A more positive one is here.

Before you go, be sure to check out Gadling’s Travel Talk TV! This week, the guys are in VEGAS!