Foreign tourists to be charged $10 “travel promotion fee” starting September 8

We’ve been covering the proposed “travel promotion fee” since last year – and what originally started as a silly idea, has now become reality.

Starting September 8, visitors to the United States will be required to pay $14 to cover the costs of the ESTA travel authorization system ($4) and to fund the 2009 Travel Promotion Act ($10).

The fee is valid for unlimited entries during a two year period. Only tourists that enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program will be asked to pay.

Ever since it was first announced, I’ve found the whole concept of charging tourists a fee to help promote tourism to be moronic – people visiting the United States should not be the ones that have to pay to promote tourism, they have already picked the U.S. as their destination.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, the Travel Promotion Act will generate $4 Billion and 40,000 jobs, while reducing the deficit by $425 million over a ten year period.

If the supporters of this bill really believe a relatively minor investment in overseas travel promotion could generate $4 billion, then the funds should come from tax payers, not from tourists. In the end, every dollar these tourists have to spend on getting their ESTA travel authorization will mean fewer dollars spent in shops, restaurants and hotels. To think people will just pay the fee without feeling ripped off is plain stupid. Since the fee has to be paid for each family member, a family of five will spend $70 before they even leave their country.

Tourists will need to apply for the ESTA authorization before traveling to the United States. They will need online access and a credit/debit card, which also means some tourists may simply pick a destination that does not make them jump through hoops.

To learn more about the new ESTA fee and the Travel Promotion Act, check out the Homeland Security site on the fee rule.