CHICAGO – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) hosted a roundtable event with local small business owners and travel and tourism representatives to discuss the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act and the economic benefits of travel to Chicago.
The JOLT Act is a bipartisan initiative designed to create jobs, increase national security and reform outdated visa laws, potentially opening the door for visa-free travel to important U.S. allies like Poland. It is currently included in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform package.
“If we want Chicago to remain a world-class travel destination that generates valuable tourism dollars, we need to make it easier for visitors to come here,” said Rep. Quigley. “The JOLT Act would expand the Visa Waiver Program and attract international tourists, who spend more than $4,400 on average during each visit to our country. We also need to invest in transportation and infrastructure projects that make it easier for visitors to take full advantage of everything the area has to offer.”
Travel and tourism has grown to be one of Illinois’ top industries, employing over 292,000 people and generating $31.7 billion of spending throughout the state, according to U.S. Travel Association (USTA) research conducted in 2011. Nationally, travel is America’s largest service export, as well as one of the top job generating industries – fueling one in every eight jobs.
The roundtable also highlighted stories of local travel leaders, offering an opportunity for participants to share their thoughts on sustaining and growing this vital industry for the City of Chicago. Participants included representatives from USTA, Choose Chicago, United Airlines, Second City, Illinois Office of Tourism, First Lady Cruises, Keefer’s Restaurant, Bar Pastoral, Allied Live, Best Western Hawthorne Terrace, International Housewares Association and Berghoff Catering.
“Growing our nation’s share of inbound travel will also generate opportunity in Chicago, one of America’s foremost gateways. A boost in inbound travel will help the city reach its goal of 50 million visitors by 2020,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Rep. Quigley is to be commended for his work to advance America’s economy through travel, as evidenced by today’s roundtable, and his support for job-generating travel initiatives.”
“Travel is a critical component to the Chicago economy. Choose Chicago applauds Congressman Quigley’s efforts to strengthen this industry and the 128,000 jobs it supports, as well as exchanging thoughts and ideas with both the small and large business within it,” said Choose Chicago’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Jack Johnson. “This type of support from our public officials is important, as we at Choose Chicago endeavor to increase annual visitation to the city to 50 million as well as elevate Chicago to among the top five U.S. cities for inbound international travel.”
Rep. Quigley has been a staunch advocate for expanding the Visa Waiver Program and is author of the Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act. He serves on the House Committee on Appropriations, where he has prioritized Chicago-area infrastructure investment as a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.