Want to Visit America? Pay Up Before You Even Get In

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As a foreigner, going on a trip to the States is not cheap at the best of times. But it’s set to get even more expensive.

Starting today, tourists from 36 nations will be required to pay $14 to enter the country. The purpose of this fine: to fund the promotion of the United States as a tourist destination. Confused? You’re not alone.

Critics have argued that charging tourists to promote tourism makes no sense. “It’s like inviting a friend over for dinner and then charging them a fee at the door,” said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines around the world. IATA voiced opposition to the fee to members of Congress before it was decided upon in the Travel Promotion Act, which was passed in March. “If the idea is to make the United States more welcoming and to increase tourism, raising the entry fee seems to be counterintuitive to what you’re trying to do,” Lott said. He suggested that effort should instead be made to simplify America’s complicated entry process.

The legislation that created the fee also created the non-profit public/private Corporation for Travel Promotion that will be funded in part by $10 of the $14 fee collected from visitors. The move came after figures from the Department of Commerce showed that the United States welcomed 633,000 fewer overseas visitors in 2008 than in 2000, despite strong global growth in long-haul international travel during that period. Only time will tell what effect the fine will have on tourism to the U.S., but one thing’s for sure, after all the security checks, visas and entry fees, visitors will expect it to be damn good when they get here. (via CNN)

-Frances Perraudin