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U.S. gov't, tourism industry woo foreign travelers despite flu concerns

The U.S. government and tourism industry on Tuesday encouraged foreigners to visit their country although it was in a national emergency state due to the A/H1N1 flu epidemic.

"The United States is a top destination for millions of foreign travelers, and this great country remains a safe place to visit," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in a statement.

He noted that there were no travel restrictions to or from the United States, and travelers were welcomed to "explore America and discover its cultural, historic and recreational resources."

The statement came after the U.S. government declared on Oct. 23 the A/H1N1 flu a national emergency.

"The measure does not represent any change in status of the H1N1 influenza in our country," said Locke. "It was instead an important procedural tactic to help the government and U.S. medical facilities better handle the illness in the future."

The U.S. Travel Association, which represents all sectors and players of the U.S. tourism industry, also tried to ease the concerns triggered by the declaration, saying that traveling to the United States remains safe with no restrictions in place.

"Much like China's efficient response to bird flu, the U.S. is also taking all the proper steps to contain and prevent the spread of H1N1 to those not already infected," said Roger Dow, the UTA's president and CEO, in a statement.

"It continues to be safe to travel to the U.S. and there are no travel restrictions in place."

Since April, over 1,000 Americans have died and 20,000 more have been hospitalized by the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

Thousands more have gotten sick from the flu with the onset of fall, resulting in mass absences from school and work across the country.