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Klobuchar seeks tourism input in Bemidji

Tourism, an $11 billion industry in Minnesota, needs a shot in the arm given the current recession.

An untapped market is that of overseas travelers, says U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., who supports the Travel Promotion Act now before the Senate.

"While more people around the world are traveling, a smaller percentage of them are visiting the United States," Klobuchar said earlier this month. "We need to do more to promote the United States to international travelers. At no cost to the taxpayer, we can pass a bill that will promote the U.S. abroad, create jobs and stimulate economic growth."

Klobuchar will be in Bemidji on Wednesday to meet with area businesses to gain a sense of how tourism and business in general is in the region since the economic downturn. She will also talk about rural health care.

She plans stops in a number of northern Minnesota cities this week, leading up to the July 4th holiday.

Her stop in Bemidji is 4:45-5:30 p.m. at the Beltrami County Administration Building, 701 Minnesota Ave.

Klobuchar is a sponsor of the Travel Promotion Act, authored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Help for the travel and tourism industry should include:

- Promote the United States as a destination for international travelers by passing the bill which will enact a five-year campaign to attract overseas visitors.

- Highlighting travel bargains and options for more affordable, close-to-home vacations.

- Encouraging companies to resume business travel, including meetings for employees and customers.

The Travel Promotion Act establishes a non-profit Corporation for Travel Promotion which would provide useful information to people interested in traveling to the United States, counter and correct misperceptions regarding U.S. entry policy, and promote U.S. travel.

Since 2000, the U.S. share of the world travel market has decreased by nearly 20 percent, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue, Klobuchar says.  Additionally, the tourism industry is feeling the effects of the economic downturn.  In 2008, nearly 200,000 travel-related jobs were lost nationally, and the U.S. Commerce Department forecasts that another 247,000 jobs will be lost in 2009.

The Travel Promotion Act will establish a public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier international travel destination, the Minnesota Democrat said. The legislation calls for travel promotion to be paid for by private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers who enter the United States.

The bill, which requires no money from the American taxpayer, is estimated to attract 1.6 million new international visitors to the country and add $4 billion to the U.S. economy, she said.  An analysis by the U.S. Travel Association reveals that this program would create nearly 40,000 new American jobs.

The bill awaits action on the Senate floor. Earlier, Klobuchar held meetings on tourism in Duluth and Brainerd.

In addition to visiting Bemidji on Wednesday, earlier Klobuchar will:

- At 11:45 a.m. hold a roundtable meeting with area businesses and officials about economic development, tourism and rural health care at Hiawatha Beach Resort in Walker.

- At 2:45 p.m. hold a meeting on rural health care and tour of the new hospital building St. Joseph's Area Health Services in Park Rapids.

Today Klobuchar will meet at Granite Gear in Two Harbors, a maker of outdoor gear; hold an economic development roundtable at Blue Water Café in Grand Marais; and, hold a rural health care meeting at Cook County North Shore Hospital in Grand Marais.

Thursday, she will meet with veterans in Red Lake Falls, tour Arctic Cat Inc. at Thief River Falls, tour Mattracks rubber track vehicle systems maker in Karlstad, meet with veterans at the American Legion in Roseau, and hold a roundtable on economic development at Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau in Baudette.

She'll end the week on Friday with an economic development roundtable in International Falls and a tour of Voyageurs National Park.