Travelers to the U.S. could soon have a fee levied on them when applying for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) clearance beginning at the end of 2009. This is per new rules that were approved last week by the government.
Tourists traveling on the Visa Waiver Program can currently apply for ESTA clearance for free, just like entrance to the U.S. has been free for these countries for more than two decades. However, the new $10 fee will now be charged when applying on the ESTA website. Travelers affected include those of the U.K., France, Germany, Sweden and a further 32 countries.
The money generated will be used to “promote the United States as a premier travel destination and better explain US security policies,” according to the US Travel Association. However, not everyone agrees: “Only in Alice in Wonderland could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed,” John Brunton, the European Commission's ambassador to Washington, told the paper.
This new policy of charging tourists to visit the U.S. seems misguided. From my understanding of other countries that levy entry fees, they are generally loathed by visitors and squandered on vanity projects that don't help increase tourism - the purpose for which these fees are nominally raised. This is definitely not going to help the U.S. tourism industry in the short or long run.
What do you think, will this be a good or bad thing for U.S. tourism?
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Another tax to make travelling more expensive
At least this tax is explained upfront unlike many stealth taxes levied on travel and tourism.
Adrian on 17 September, 2009