WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Leaders from the travel industry, including Marriott International, Inc., told Members of Congress this week that tourism holds the key to the nation's economic recovery and urged them to support policy measures designed to facilitate international travel. At a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, Kathleen Matthews, chief communications and public affairs officer, called on legislators to protect funding for Brand USA and pass the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel ("JOLT") Act as part of comprehensive immigration reform. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130508/PH10141 ) (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090217/MARRIOTTINTLLOGO ) Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive officer, has stressed that "Travel is trade. Efforts to make America the top travel destination in the world offer tremendous opportunities to expand our nation's economy, drive exports and create jobs. As the immigration debate unfolds, we must remember to balance conversations about rigorous border security with our desire to remain a magnet for world travelers." In particular, industry executives expressed concern with a provision in draft comprehensive immigration legislation that would divert funds from Brand USA, the public-private partnership established in 2010 to promote the United States as a travel destination, to border security efforts. "We are working on an alternative provision that ensures both initiatives are adequately funded," said Matthews. At a hearing entitled " Vacation Nation: How Tourism Benefits our Economy," Matthews testified that tourism is not just about enjoyable vacations, but drives business performance and economic growth. She reiterated Marriott's longstanding support for the bipartisan JOLT Act ( H.R. 1354), a bill to encourage international visitation by enhancing the Visa Waiver Program and setting standards to ensure rapid processing of tourist and business visitor visa applications at U.S. consular offices overseas. These provisions to create "Smart Visa" policies have been included in the Senate's larger immigration bill. "Every time Marriott opens a new hotel, the positive ripple effect on the local economy and community is tremendous," said Matthews. "JOLT is a surefire way to ensure maximum demand for our services and enable the U.S. to capture the greatest possible share of the growing global pool of international travelers. Marriott is proud to be doing its part to put Americans back to work, and we hope Congress will see the value in advancing this and other legislative proposals designed to boost travel and tourism to and within the United States." View Matthews's full written statement to the Subcommittee here. About Marriott International, Inc.Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE: MAR) is a leading lodging company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, with more than 3,800 properties in 74 countries and territories. The company operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts under 18 brands. For more information or reservations, please visit our web site at www.marriott.com, and for the latest company news, visit www.marriottnewscenter.com. SOURCE Marriott International, Inc.