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October 21, 2014

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Politics:

Sen. Harry Reid calls on Congress to invest in tourism

Tourism advocates have dubbed this first week of May the National Travel and Tourism Week, and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. took the opportunity to call for more investment in Las Vegas’ tourism industry and beyond.

To do so, Reid called on Congress to approve legislation on everything from immigration reform to transportation improvements.

“Tourism is the nation’s No. 1 export,” the Senate majority leader said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “But just mentioning the industry’s strength isn’t enough. As with any professional business, investment helps.”

Reid specifically singled out an immigration-reform bill the Senate passed last June that also makes permanent legislation setting up an international marketing campaign for tourism to the United States.

In 2010, Reid and his colleagues fought through “as I recall, about five filibusters” to pass the Travel Promotion Act, which set up the public-private marketing campaign Brand USA that tries to lure international tourists to America.

International visitors are particularly key to Las Vegas’ economy, making up about one in every four tourists to the city, Reid said.

A 2012 federal task force on travel and tourism set a goal of drawing 100 million international visitors to the US by 2021. Reid cited an independent study of Brand USA that found the campaign drew an extra 1 million visitors to America. A Senate committee will analyze the campaign later this week.

But the marketing campaign can only continue if Congress signs off on it again this year, and like many pieces of legislation between chambers, its chances aren’t looking that great.

The Senate-passed immigration reform bill has lied dormant in the Republican-controlled House as Republican leaders debate their own set of immigration-related bills.

The gridlock has relegated Reid to making speeches like the one he gave Monday.

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