Quick public service announcement*: you've only got a few hours left to register to avoid having to pay £9 every time you want to enter the United States. Yup, even the Visa Waiver programme costs these days. (And even registering to avoid the fee offers but partial relief since in two years time you'll have to pay anyway.) And why is this happening? Why, because of our old friends in the United States Senate:
The US Senate introduced the charge in an attempt to reverse the declining number of visitors to the country – the majority of the money raised will be used to fund promotion of the US as a holiday destination, but some believe it will in fact put people off travelling there.
Earlier this year, John Bruton, the European Commission’s ambassador to Washington, said the fee would be counter-intuitive.
Quite. Needless to say, if there's been a significant decline in the number of visitors to the US that's most probably explained by the fact that flying to the US is a pretty ghastly business these days. One can understand why that's become the case but this, nevertheless, is one reason why people might choose to go elsewhere. Plus, the dollar has strengthened against the pound...“
“Only in Alice in Wonderland could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed,” he said.
Still, nice of the Senate to arrange for foreigners to pay for the US travel industry to do its own damn job.
*Though the website seems to have been crashing all day.