Taxable tourism? New bill applies surcharge to foreigners - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Taxable tourism? New bill applies surcharge to foreigners

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by Heather Hauswirth

With the current state of the economy, business leaders and policymakers alike are working to come up with creative ways of generating revenue and stimulating their systems with infusions of cash. A new bill that applies additional charges for foreigners entering United States soil, which could mean big bucks for the island.

The Travel Promotions Act of 2009 would mean foreigners traveling to the U.S. would have to pay an extra $10 before they can enter the U.S. Senate Bill 1023 would establishes a non-profit corporation with an 11-person board made up of individuals who are from the travel industry including representatives from hotels, restaurants, retail, cruise lines, air lines, and convention or visitors bureaus, to name a few.

Given Guam's contribution as a tourist destination in the U.S. that attracts a lot of foreign travelers to its beautiful beaches, Guam could stand to benefit financially. "The U.S. actually lost a lot of foreign travelers going to different places," said Guam Visitors Bureau general manager Gerry Perez. The Travel Promotions Act of 2009 was introduced as a solution to dealing with low travel numbers after 9/11.

Perez says the Travel Promotions Act, recently passed by the U.S. Senate, would establish a non-profit corporation comprised of 11 board members from different parts of the tourism industry. "It is intended to promote the U.S. as a destination, and the bill is supposed to promote travel both to rural areas as well as urban areas," he explained.

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo is among one of the co-sponsors that has introduced this bill to the House. In an e-mail to KUAM News, she said, "The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 aims to promote travel to the United States, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that Guam's tourism market and the territories benefit from the fees collected." Perez added that this $10 U.S. entry fee could be very good for Guam as long Guam gets its fair share of the funds collected to promote U.S. destinations.

"Since we have close to a million foreigners entering Guam, you can see where we can get like $10 million generated out of Guam," he said.

Perez says he would use some of the money to help with marketing efforts for Guam. The challenge is making sure that the members of the board do not neglect the islands. "Typically what will happen is the big organizations get put on the board like the JW Marriott, Disney attraction, Las Vegas Convention bureau, and so small islands like Guam and Micronesia typically get overshadowed and dominated by the big players," he said.

The governor is expected to meet with members of the tourism industry on Monday.

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