Thursday, March 4, 2010 | 12:19 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama today signed a long-pushed bill to establish a national tourism promotion agency that would market the United States to visitors from abroad.
Obama said there is no better country to visit than the United States as he signed the bill in the Oval Office, flanked by lawmakers from Nevada and other tourism states.
The bill enjoyed bipartisan support and has been pushed since the country experienced a precipitous decline in overseas visitors after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The travel industry estimates that more than 600,000 fewer overseas visitors are coming to the country, contributing to economic losses in Las Vegas and other tourist-dependent economies.
The bill is expected to create 40,000 jobs nationwide in the first year.
Obama thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by name for ushering the bill to passage. The bill’s passage will provide another victory for Reid heading into a difficult re-election this fall.
Also at the ceremony were Nevada’s Democratic Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, and Republican Sen. John Ensign.
The bill would assess a $10 per person visa fee on visitors to fund the new agency. The agency would receive $10 million in start-up costs for the first year, but eventually would be required to match government funds dollar per dollar. The bill also establishes a new office of travel promotion within the Commerce Department.