Colorado senators back tourism promotion bill |

Colorado senators back tourism promotion bill

Catherine Tsai
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – As American tourists watch their travel budgets, the Senate is considering a bill aimed at getting more foreign travelers to the U.S.

Both of Colorado’s senators are among several co-sponsors of the measure.

The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group, estimates overseas travelers spend about $4,500 per trip on average before going home. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the number of overseas travelers to the U.S. has never rebounded to the 26 million or so who visited in 2000, said Geoff Freeman, a senior vice president of the association.

“If we couldn’t get it back when the dollar was at an all-time low, that doesn’t bode well,” he said Wednesday.

The Travel Promotion Act would establish an independent nonprofit corporation for travel promotion, plus an Office of Travel Promotion within the Department of Commerce.

One of the corporation’s duties would be to counter misperceptions about U.S. entry policies, some of which changed after the 2001 attacks and which repelled some tourists.

“They simply don’t feel as welcome as they may have been prior to 9/11,” Freeman said.

The bill also would create a travel promotion fund, financed in part by a $10 fee for foreign travelers.

Steve Bartolin, chief executive officer at The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs, said the bill was a step in the right direction, though he said other cities like San Francisco might benefit more from efforts to boost visits from international tourists.

The luxury resort has had about $23 million worth of canceled group business this year, or about 20 percent, mostly due to groups not wanting to send the wrong message at a time of corporate bailouts, Bartolin said. He said peer hotels are seeing the same. The Broadmoor hasn’t had layoffs but due to attrition and a slowdown in hiring, the number of employees has dropped to 1,600 from about 2,000 a year ago, Bartolin said.

“The biggest thing for us is a rebound in the meetings industry – that would be biggest help,” Bartolin said.

Nevertheless, he expected The Broadmoor would get “residual benefits” from a bill that helps the tourism industry.

“Many people don’t realize it, but the industry never really fully recovered after Sept. 11, particularly when it comes to travel to the United States from outside the country,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Tuesday on the Senate floor in support of the bill.

In a written statement Wednesday, Sen. Michael Bennet, a fellow Colorado Democrat, said a national program to attract international visitors could spur job creation.

“Tourism is a tremendous economic driver for Colorado, accounting for tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for our economy,” he said.

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