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Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus Hosts Secretary Napolitano

October 2, 2009


Contact:                                                                                                    October 2, 2009
Madeline Vied                                                                               For Immediate Release

Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus Hosts Secretary Napolitano

LEXINGTON, Ky.The Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, co-chaired by Napolitano09Congressmen Sam Farr, D-California, and Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, hosted the first Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus Breakfast Series, featuring Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

"The initiation of this series of events by the Caucus is a wonderful way to maintain a dialogue between congressional leaders, key officials of the Obama administration, and leaders in the travel sector," said Lisa Simon, CTP, president of the National Tour Association and one of the 20 attendees at  the breakfast meeting.

"All in attendance look forward to having a broad base of travel executives participate in these informal discussions.  Secretary Napolitano was well informed on key travel issues, candid, and responsive to the topics discussed," Simon noted.

After initial comments by Congressmen Farr and Blunt, Secretary Napolitano outlined five areas of general focus within her department. These were a focus on preventing the continuing threat of terrorism; securing U.S. borders by air, land, and sea; enforcing immigration laws, including visas, who gets them and the conditions of the visas; preparation and response to natural and man-made disasters and the administrative task of unifying the multiple-agency Department of Homeland Security.

Napolitano continued by addressing the following travel sector issues:

  • 1. DHS is following the legislative activity on the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. Under the legislation, DHS will be responsible for collecting the US$10 visitor fee from Visa waiver countries.
  • 2. DHS supports the "Pass ID" enhancement of drivers licenses to provide adequate identification for domestic travel without passports. Urgent legislation sponsored by Senators Akaka and Voinovich needs immediate support. Without this legislation, some airline passengers will be turned away.
  • 3. Money from the Recovery & Reinvestment Act will enable TSA to screen baggage more quickly for explosives and reduce the number of airports that have separate locations-other than behind the counter-for baggage drop off.
  • 4. DHS will improve border crossing facilities at land ports on the Canadian border (Mexican border facilities are managed by the U.S. General Services Administration).
  • 5. DHS will expand the number of US customs and customs screening pre-clearance sites abroad. New sites include Bermuda and Shannon, Ireland.
  • 6. DHS will create a more welcoming environment at entry facilities with films greeting visitors, better hospitality trained staff and broader multilingual capabilities within the U.S. Customs staff.
  • 7. DHS will continue to work closely with the travel sector on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Noting the recent drop in travel to and from Canada, DHS will cooperate on improvements in the implementation of WHTI, if it is one of the causes of this drop in visitation.

In the open discussion, Secretary Napolitano received input on various issues, including the security of American-owned hotels overseas, the excellent handling by her department to date on the H1N1 flu virus, improvements already made to provide a more welcoming TSA, travel sector relationships with various agencies within DHS, better information for travelers on the new "Secure Flight" program and other cooperative efforts.

"All of the attendees were very impressed with this format and can not thank Secretary Napolitano and the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus Co-Chairs Sam Farr and Roy Blunt enough," observed Simon.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Congressman Blunt suggested participants urge members to contact their representatives about joining the Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus, if they are not already members.

Participants in the meeting were Representative Sam Farr, D-California, co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus; Representative Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus; Emily Cassell, director of the Arlington Convention & Visitors Service; Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association; Simon Gros, vice president of Travelport, representing the Interactive Travel Services Association; John Groundwater, executive director of the Passenger Vessel Association; Bill Hardman, president and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society; John Meehan, executive vice president and COO of the Air Transportation Association of America; Patrick Madden, president of Sister Cities International; Jonas Neihardt, senior vice president of Hilton Hotels Corporation; Adam W. Salerno, senior manager of U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Honorable James Santini, legislative counsel of the National Tour Association; Lisa Simon, CTP, president of the National Tour Association;  Colin Tooze, vice president of the American Society of Travel Agents; Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels.

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Photo caption: Congressman Sam Farr, co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, addresses participants who attended meeting with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Congressman Roy Blunt, co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus.

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