The Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, a bill reintroduced today in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Joe Heck (R-Nev.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), may help facilitate international travel to the United States while boosting the economy and creating jobs.
The bill, which has received support from the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), and several hotel leaders, will expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), establish a pilot program for the use of secure videoconferencing for visa processing, and reduce wait times for visa processing.
“We applaud the reintroduction of the JOLT Act by Congressman Joe Heck, which has the potential to create an immediate stimulus to our economy by adding millions of new tourism dollars and thousands of new jobs,” said Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide. “Recently we’ve seen impressive results from modest improvements to the visa processing system, so it’s clear that we can build significantly on this momentum by allowing more of our longtime ally nations into the Visa Waiver Program.”
A recent study compiled by U.S. Travel and Consensus Research found that inefficient customs and entry procedures at the nation’s gateway airports are costing the United States at least $95 billion in total output and 518,900 jobs across the economy. Consensus Research Group polled overseas travelers who have visited the United States in the past five years and found that 43 percent of travelers tell others to avoid a trip to the United States because of the entry process. The study also found that 44 percent of business travelers who participated in the survey said that they would not visit in the next five years due to the difficult entry process. Two in three travelers surveyed said that eliminating long lines and wait times was their top priority for making the United States a more attractive travel destination.
The JOLT Act will allow more travelers from countries closely allied to the United States, including Poland, Israel, Chile, and Brazil, to enjoy visa-free entry into the country. The Act will also expand the Global Entry program that allows pre-approved, low-risk international travelers the ability to utilize an expedited clearance process upon entry into the United States.
“AH&LA is bringing hundreds of hoteliers to Washington, D.C., this April to tell Congress we need to pass this legislation,” said Marlene Colucci, AH&LA executive vice president for public policy. “Increasing travel to the United States is the most effective form of economic stimulus—creating millions of new American jobs, adding billions to the U.S. economy, and benefitting every community around the country.”
By expanding the Visa Waiver Program, the JOLT Act could help increase annual visitation to the United States by 4 million; add more than $45 billion to the U.S. economy; and support nearly 300,000 American jobs.
“The data is clear—increased international travel to the U.S. will deliver the jolt America’s economy needs right now,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Travel works for America. The JOLT Act works for America. And we look forward to working with Congressional stakeholders on both sides of the aisle to enact this critical legislation without delay.”