Associations welcome passage of federal omnibus spending bill

The bill would create a new assistant secretary position in DOC to coordinate national tourism promotion

federal omnibus spending bill
The recently passed federal $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package contains the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act and the creation of a position in the Department of Commerce to coordinate travel and tourism industry strategy.

THE RECENTLY PASSED federal $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill contains important gains for the travel and hospitality industries, according to several advocacy groups. That includes the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act and the creation of a position in the Department of Commerce to coordinate travel and tourism industry strategy.

AAHOA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U.S. Travel Association all welcomed the passage of the spending bill that was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 29. All cited the OTTA legislation created by U.S. Sens. Jacky Rosen, Democrat of Nevada, and Republic Roger Wicker of Mississippi through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

What is the OTTA?

The elements of the OTTA include the Visit America Act, which authorizes the creation of the new position in the DOC. The new assistant secretary would coordinate a strategy across multiple federal agencies to increase travel and tourism nationwide through annual goals and recommendations.

“This means the industry will finally have a seat at the policy table after decades of advocating for this to occur,” said Laura Lee Blake, AAHOA president and CEO, in post.

The spending bill is “a tremendous win for travelers, the travel industry and America’s economy,” said Geoff Freeman, USTA president and CEO, in a statement.

“The idea to create a presidentially appointed, U.S. Senate-confirmed position to lead federal travel policy has been around for decades. Thanks to a bipartisan and bicameral group of congressional leaders, the United States will now join all G20 countries with a senior federal official focused on travel,” Freeman said.  “The assistant secretary will play an important role as we partner with government to lower visitor visa wait times, modernize security screening and leverage new technologies to make travel more seamless and secure.”

Other elements include the Protecting Tourism in the U.S. Act and the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act which address the effects of COVID-19 on travel and tourism; and the One-Stop Pilot Program Act of 2021 that establishes a pilot program to study improvement of baggage screening.

“Over the past two years, tourism has been hit hard in Nevada and across the country because of COVID-19,” Rosen said last year when OTTA passed out of committee. “This bipartisan package will take important steps to enhance air travel health and safety, enact a comprehensive study on the pandemic’s impact on the industry, and better coordinate our national travel and tourism strategy across federal agencies. I will continue working across the aisle to ensure the full Senate passes this legislation quickly to support our businesses and bring back good-paying jobs.”

OTTA, or “TourBus,” was a focus of AHLA’s lobbying efforts, said Chip Rogers, AHLA President and CEO, in a statement. There were other important parts of the spending  bill as well, Rogers said.

“To help hoteliers continue to deal with labor shortages, the bill maintains the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to double the yearly allocation of H-2B visas,” he said. “AHLA will continue to impress upon lawmakers the critical importance of significantly increasing the cap on these visas to help hotels meet staffing needs.”