Obama signs the ESTA Travel Promotion Act

The Travel Promotion Act will create a non-profit body, the Corporation for Travel Promotion, to promote America to overseas tourists and to provide information on travel and security policies to the country.

A nominal fee will be charged to visitors from countries included in the Visa Waiver Program, countries such as Australia, Japan as well as the European Union, to partially fund the organisation which will also receive private funding.  Countries included in the Visa Waiver Program require an ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, to enter a flight to the US.

The rest of the funding for the corporation will come through up to $100 million in private sector contributions.

President and CEO of the US Travel Association, Roger Dow, has welcomed the move.

"By signing the Travel Promotion Act, President Obama has acted to support the power of travel to serve as an economic stimulant, job generator and diplomatic tool," said Roger Dow.

The corporation will address major losses the US has experienced in overseas visitors, and also bring the country up to speed with other countries in tourism promotion.

National tourism organisations in Greece, Australia and Mexico each spent more than US$100 million on tourism marketing in 2005, figures from the UN World Tourism Organisation show.

In the same year, the last year for which figures are available, America spent only US$6 million.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people make American Visa applications to the American Embassy.