Congressman Crowley Announces Resolution to Encourage Expansion of Visa Waiver Program and Boost Tourism in Queens

April 10, 2012
Press Release

(Queens, N.Y.) – Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (Queens, the Bronx) announced he will introduce a measure in the House of Representatives that would encourage the U.S. Government expand the Visa Waiver Program, an effort that will help boost tourism in Queens. Crowley was joined by Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce; Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation; and Patricia Rojas from the U.S. Travel Association for the announcement.

Crowley’s resolution calls on the U.S. Government to expand the Visa Waiver Program to include at least three new countries: Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. The Visa Waiver Program enables visitors from 36 participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Countries included in the program were the largest source of inbound travel in 2010, representing 65% of all tourists to the U.S. Expanding the program will encourage more international visitors to the U.S. and will help communities like Queens that are looking to increase tourism and create jobs.

“We need to do all we can to make Queens a destination point, and not just a gateway to Manhattan. The history and diversity of Queens has so much to offer to offer to travelers, and increasing travel and tourism is one of the most effective tools we have in our pocket to spur job growth and foster economic activity on the local level. It’s simple: the easier it is for international tourists to visit the U.S., the more likely they will. My resolution will help us accomplish just that, and expand on New York City’s standing as the number one American tourist destination for international visitors by making Queens a part of tourists’ itineraries,” said Rep. Crowley. “I thank the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Queens Economic Development Corporation for leading efforts to encourage more tourism in the borough. I’d also like to thank the U.S. Travel Association for working to boost the tourism industry both in New York and across the nation.”

In addition to Crowley’s announcement, the group also discussed the importance of encouraging travel and tourism in Queens and the impact it will have on the local economy. Tourism generates $46.5 billion in economic impact for New York City and supports over 300,000 jobs. However, the impact of tourism extends beyond Manhattan. In 2010, tourists spent $6 billion in the outer-boroughs and 25 percent of international visitors ventured into the outer-boroughs.

“Efforts that can lead to increased tourism opportunities are most welcome. Congressman Crowley's measure will be a great help to maximize tourism and hospitality efforts in our nation's most diverse county. The Queens Chamber of Commerce thanks him for his efforts and the support he continues to show our communities small businesses,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

“As the most diverse county in the country, Queens has a great deal to offer visitors. The QEDC/Queens Tourism Council is supportive of Congressman Crowley's efforts in showcasing our borough and encouraging more people to ‘Discover Queens’,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

“Expanding the Visa Waiver Program to countries such as Brazil, Chile and Argentina will benefit our economy and create much-needed U.S. jobs,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “With advocates on both sides of the aisle, improving traveler facilitation is a bipartisan issue, and the Visa Waiver Program is an excellent tool for increasing travel to the U.S.”

Crowley’s resolution follows a meeting between the Congressman and the Queens Chamber of Commerce that focused on advancing economic growth and job creation in Queens through a number of initiatives, including increasing travel and tourism in the borough. It also comes on the heels of the recent revival of the Queens Tourism Council, an effort by the QEDC to bring local businesses together to encourage tourism in Queens.

In January, President Obama announced a national strategy to make the U.S. the world’s top travel and tourism destination as part of a comprehensive effort to create jobs and spur economic growth. 

Congressman Crowley is a seven-term representative from the 7th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He serves as chief deputy whip in the Democratic leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.