NTA acts as a dedicated advocate on behalf of its members and the tourism industry. Active with policymakers in Congress and the Administration, the association coordinates with its partners on a number of key legislative issues.
Currently, NTA is focused on a number of policy priorities, including:
National Park Service
The National Park Service manages 410 parks. Created Aug. 25, 1916, NPS serves to conserve scenery and the natural and historical objects contained in lands designated as national parks. National parks support 240,000 jobs and contribute nearly $27 billion to the U.S. economy annually. In 2015 more than 307 million people visited NPS sites. Congress has been supportive of NPS, and both the Senate and House are deliberating an important piece of legislation the National Park Service Centennial Act (H.R. 4780). NTA strongly supports the National Park Service Centennial Act, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). The bill seeks to establish funds that will fuel a variety of nation-wide programs during, and after, the Centennial. The bill would provide increased funding to the NPS through a new Centennial Challenge Fund, which leverages a 1-to-1 federal to private match. Furthermore, the bill seeks to establish a $25 million a year Second Century Endowment fund within the National Park Foundation that would augment existing NPS funds to support NPS priorities and directives. The NPS estimates that there is an $11 billion backlog in maintenance as funds provided to NPS for maintenance purposes has not kept pace with its identified needs. While the NPS believes that it can mitigate some of the deferred maintenance, it cannot fully eliminate them without proper Congressional appropriations. Considering that the NPS believes that deferred maintenance costs will continue to rise until addressed, NTA also supports robust NPS funding in congressional appropriations legislation during and after the Centennial.
Safe and Efficient TSA Security Programs
NTA strongly supports a robust budget for the Transportation Security Administration so that the agency may hire, train and retain an adequate number of security screeners, as well as improve our security posture in the process. NTA is also supportive of expedited screening programs such as PreCheck and encourages efforts to expand the program and increase enrollment. On top of the 740 million passengers that are expected to fly this year, recent Government Accountability Office reports found that TSA has not been able to effectively carry out its duties due to funding shortfalls. Considering that TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 of last year’s Department of Homeland Security’s covert Red Team tests, the onus is on Congress to ensure that TSA has adequate funding and staffing levels. To this extent, the President requested $7.6 billion for the TSA in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. While the appropriations debate and process is ongoing in Congress, the Senate appropriators unanimously approved a spending bill on May 26, 2016 that provides $7.7 billion for the TSA.
Modernizing our Nation’s Airports
Airports are economic engines for communities across the country and gateways to tourism destinations across the United States and the world. Accordingly, it’s critical that we provide our nation’s airports sufficient resources to ensure they are up to the task. NTA advocates for robust funding streams for our nation’s airports, particularly in the context of the pending Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill being debated in Congress. FAA reauthorization bills govern airport funding and aviation policy for years at a time. The FAA is currently operating on an extension of the previous reauthorization bill and Congress is debating successor legislation. The Senate passed its version of a reauthorization bill on March 16, 2016 with ease. However, the House version of the bill has not yet moved forward on the House floor. Debate continues over the House proposal to remove the operation and management of air traffic control from the FAA and to place ATC control and management under a quasi-private, not-for-profit entity.
Protecting and Expanding the Visa Waiver Program
NTA is a strong supporter of the Visa Waiver Program, which increases both the safety and efficiency of our visa system. VWP is a pre-screened, pre-approved traveler program which allows for reciprocal visa-free travel for up to 90 days with participating countries. The program is only applicable to specific countries where the U.S. has in-depth security and information sharing agreements and coordination of law enforcement. In this vein, NTA strongly supports the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act (JOLT) (H.R. 1401 / S. 2091). The JOLT Act, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate and Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV) in the House, contains provisions that would enhance travel and tourism in the United States, including proposed reforms to provide DHS with greater authorization to expand and clarify VWP eligibility. Finally, NTA is monitoring the debate surrounding possible retaliatory proposals that have been raised by the EU relating to EU visa waivers for U.S. citizens. NTA does not believe such actions are necessarily likely but is advocating strenuously on the need to avoid a negative outcome. Eliminating the ability of Americans and Europeans to make use of VWP and similar European programs could damage the security posture of both the EU and U.S. and potentially stymie travel and business.
Surface Transportation Funding
The nation’s surface transportation system is critical to the tourism industry and the U.S. economy, as it affects the daily life of most Americans. However, the costs to repair and upgrade the nation’s surface transportation system to meet current and future demands are estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. A sustainable solution to fund these surface transportation demands is needed. NTA is encouraged by the Trump administration’s interest in investing in America’s infrastructure with the development of a legislative package possibly taking place later this year. NTA hopes that the pledged infrastructure package will move forward with investments into highways, bridges, tunnels, schools, airports, clean water, and security infrastructure. NTA is excited about the possibility of an infrastructure package and looks forward to working with the administration and Congress on possible investments that will help facilitate a more positive experience throughout the travel and tourism industry.
Travel between Cuba and the United States
Expanding travel to Cuba remains a high priority for NTA. The association strongly believes that normalizing relations with Cuba will greatly benefit the U.S. economy and be a boon for the travel and tourism sector, the nation’s largest service export.
Recent Administration Action
On March 15, 2016, the Administration released its latest amendments to its Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations, which significantly increase the ability of U.S. citizens to engage in travel to Cuba. While these amendments do not address travel for tourism purposes, they authorize individuals to travel to Cuba provided that the travel is for cultural and educational exchange purposes.
Landscape in Congress
NTA supports a number of bills in both the House and Senate that would expand travel and trade with Cuba. As an association, NTA has been active in advocating on behalf of these bills and also has teamed up with coalition partners such as Engage Cuba to create a broad chorus of support. Key legislation includes:
- The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 664 / S. 299): This bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in the Senate and Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) in the House, would dismantle any current regulations in place hampering individual travel to Cuba upon enactment and prohibit the future enactment of such regulatory restrictions. This legislation has been cosponsored by over half the Senate and by over 100 members of the House of Representatives.
- The Cuba Trade Act (H.R. 3238): Sponsored by Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL), this bill would eliminate the embargo with Cuba and establish normalized relationships.
NTA annually participates at Destination Capitol Hill in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, Destinations International and other sponsoring partners. The spring 2022 event will bring travel leaders from across the country to Washington, D.C., to educate policymakers about the power of travel. The program combines a legislative day with advocacy training, guest speakers, and peer-to-peer networking.
- NTA has provided us the research and atmosphere to brainstorm new ways of doing things and fresh additions to trips, which has led to successful business development. Rachel Ranck, WorldStrides, NTA member since 1985
- What NTA does is provide the right buyers. They provide the right people who make decisions. This is what makes this organization one I can’t afford to take off my list. John Stachnik CTP, Mayflower Tours, NTA member since 1979
- I came to NTA to build a business, and that’s exactly what it did for us, as sales came in. For me, it’s the only outlet for new ideas. Matthew Squire, Select Travel Service (UK), NTA member since 2002
- NTA membership and our attendance at the convention have provided us with more clients, more business relationships and more ideas. We are proud to belong to NTA. Daniele Panzarin, Target Travel (Italy), NTA member since 2007
- The No. 1 member benefit of NTA has to be all the great professional and personal connections we’ve made over the past decade. Taunya Wolfe Finn, CTP, Wolfe Adventures & Tours, NTA member since 2005
- We have not found a more reliable, more profitable or more consistent tourism venue in which to acquire new business than NTA. Diane Hohnstein, Hospitality Management Services, NTA member since 1999
- I believe attending the NTA conferences allow me to create valuable relationships and work together with U.S. operators in creating great Scotland product. Maggie Anderson, VisitScotland, NTA member since 2003
- NTA events provide us with beneficial networking with many top tour operators. It’s national and international in scope providing a global perspective. Tim and Elaine Moulder, Brilliant Edventures, NTA member since 2015