Book Travel To US Now and Avoid Electronic Visa Charge

Travel agents and travellers are being advised that booking travel to the USA inside the four weeks will avoid extra travel costs. For in early September travel to the US will become more complicated and costly.

From September 8, the US authorities will start charging $14 (around £9 at current exchange rates) for electronic visas, a requirement for UK and other European visitors to the US since January last year (2009).

Consumer groups are advising prospective travellers to the US to apply now for their visa – before the charge comes into force.

Specialist USA travel companies are not happy with the charge – which they regard as a tax on tourism – but some are relieved the fee was not more than 14 dollars. Some speculation had suggested that the fee for ESTA might have been as high as 20 dollars.

One UK tour operator, which relies heavily on its business from travel agents, Premier Holidays, is urging agents to make as many bookings as possible before the extra charge comes into force.

“The introduction of the £9 charge for the mandatory ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) from September 8 means there is no better time than now to book to avoid the extra travel costs,” says Heidi Blades, General Manager, USA, Canada and the Caribbean for Premier Holidays.

The company has reported heartening bookings to the US up by 19 per cent in July and 27 per cent up for the financial year. The company has also expanded its products in Las Vegas, Alabama and Florida with more than 6,000 hotels availabile on-line and in-house.

“Trade incentives are available where travel agents can earn up to £50 in vouchers and receive enhanced commission when booking accommodation online,” the Premier chief added.

Travel agents have been warned that already there are bogus websites charging higher rates, and they have urged to make sure their clients are not being ripped off when it comes to paying for their visa.