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A cover charge? Canadians get in free!

A cover charge? Canadians get in free!

By Chi Lo
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We have all seen tourism ads for Canada (Keep Exploring), India (Incredible India!), Aruba (90,000 Friends you Haven't Met yet), but have you noticed that, when traveling, you don't see anything for the United States?

Well, on Thursday, President Obama signed into law the US' first ever in-bound travel promotion program. The Travel Promotion Act (TPA), means that for first time in the country's history, the US will have a national level entity to promote travel to the US. State-level marketing bodies such as the California Travel & Tourim Commission (think TV spots with the Governator), and the Virginia Tourism Corporation (think "Virginia is for Lovers" campaign) already exist but lack solidarity as they are essentially competing for the same international visitors.

The act hopes to bring jobs back into the vernacular, and is anticipated to reduce the federal deficit by $425 million over ten years. Perhaps more importantly, the TPA is also meant to put the US in favourable light abroad. The program will be funded not by taxpayer money, but by private sector contributions, and by a $10 charge to foreign leisure travelers to the US, including those who are already covered under the Visa Waiver Program. Unless you are Canadian -- Canadians get in free.

Strangely enough, the fee, though nominal when combined with the other costs of traveling, is imposed on the very people whom the TPA is meant to attract. And strangely enough, the fee they pay actually goes to the marketing campaign that supposedly brought them to the US. On the other hand, Canadians must pay $50 for a single entry visa for say, Egypt, or China. Likewise, Egyptians and Chinese require visas to enter Canada. The visa issue appears to be reciprocal, and attests to nations' foreign relations.

It really should come as no surprise that this move by Obama is met with "mixed reviews" -- while it is hailed by many in the tourism industry in hopes that it will bring jobs and visitors, travelers are afraid of the potential repercussions of the TPA, particularly reciprocal entry or visa fees, or a backfiring of the promotional campaign, creating a negative image of Americans.

In other news, Canadians continue to make a good name for ourselves - you may have heard about the Vancouverites who found a missing camcorder and made a video about it and posted it on YouTube in hopes of finding the owner. The owner, saw the video on King 5, and responded. Love a happy ending.

ps - welcome new readers from the Canadian Expat Network!


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