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WASHINGTON-When all the hoopla surrounding the first White House Conference on Tourism ended, delegates were still left without some answers they sought when they arrived.

The 1,700 travel and tourism officials who came to show Congress their power said they were pleased the industry finally came together, adopting goals and objectives, and giving itself a higher profile.

Government tourism officials said the Oct. 30-31 conference achieved its primary goal of having delegates ratify a national tourism strategy, which includes four overall goals and 10 objectives, plus agreeing that a new public-private partnership is needed to promote tourism to the U.S.

However delegates said the conference left them wondering about money, a comprehensive marketing plan and the short-term role of the U.S. Travel & Tourism Association.

"This was a start, but just a start," said Donald Leonard, exec VP at Eureka/Humbolt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Eureka, Calif. "Until we receive funding, it will only be a start."

Travel officials heard President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, author Garrison Keillor and Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown endorse the conference's proposals, telling attendees how important they were to the U.S. economy.

On the downside, they also heard how difficult it is for foreign travelers to enter this country, how difficult they find it to get around once they get in and how unfriendly some U.S. citizens can be to foreign tourists. On top of that, they also heard what kind of marketing they are up against from countries such as Australia and Canada.

Congressman Toby Roth (R., Wis.) told the conference he will introduce legislation to establish a new promotional campaign to attract more international visitors to the U.S.

The proposed Travel & Tourism Partnership Bill of 1995 would form a public-private partnership between the travel/tourism industry and the government to strengthen the promotion of travel to the U.S.; establish a 36-member National Tourism Board made up 75% from the private sector; and set up a national tourism organization as a non-profit corporation under federal charter.

President Clinton promised more help for the industry in the future, such as the modernization of the Federal Aviation Agency and easier entry into the U.S. for foreign tourists.

Conference officials also proposed a new public-private partnership, VISIT USA, become an international marketing arm to replace the USTTA when that organization becomes defunct at yearend or in 1996.

About $100 million in public money is needed by the year 2000, to be matched by the tourism industry, to get VISIT USA off the ground, said Judson Green, president, Walt Disney Attractions, and Bobbe Maynes, commissioner, Vermont Department of Travel & Tourism.

Some funding tools for the proposal discussed among delegates included a $3 annual hike in the cost of U.S. passports or a departure tax from this country.

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