U.S. Senator Michael Bennet says a new bill making its way through Congress could bring millions of dollars and hundreds of new jobs to Colorado -- all by launching a more aggressive campaign to get foreign tourists into the U.S.
The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 cleared the U.S. Senate last week by a 79-19 vote.
Colorado officials say when it comes to the state's economy, the tourism industry's impact is no small matter.
"Tourism is the second largest industry with all of its clusters," said Governor Bill Ritter.
The state estimates tourism rakes in $4 billion each year and employs nearly 150,000 people.
"We're still able to market this state with significant tourism dollars," said Ritter. "We know that's important to the people of the state in terms of the economy coming back."
Bennet says a new bill making its way through Congress will be a major boost to that mission.
"It ought to be a huge help to Colorado," said Bennet.
The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 would create the Corporation for Travel Promotion -- a non-profit group run by an 11 member board of industry experts, who would volunteer their time and only be compensated for group related travel expenses. Using funds raised by a $10 fee paid for by foreign visitors, the group would launch an extensive campaign to get international tourists into the U.S.
"Travel from international visitors is way down from what it was before September 11," said Bennet. "And other countries are marketing their countries extremely aggressively."
Bennet cites a 2007 survey by Oxford Economics that says a program like the one this bill -- which he co-sponsored -- sets up could drive between $4 billion and $8 billion in new tourism spending nationwide.
He says because Colorado makes up 2.5% of the U.S. market share in the tourism industry, more than $100 million could trickle into the state's economy as a result of the bill. He estimates that money could create 1,100 jobs.
"I think this bill is a big step forward," said Bennet.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would reduce budget deficits by $425 million over the next nine years.
The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives.