With a flick of the president's pen this week, the U.S. Travel Service became the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration, thanks to the National Tourism Policy Act of 1981. That and a few bucks will buy the whole office a cup of coffee.

The service--er, administration--still has just 75 employes, 30 of them tucked away in the Department of Commerce and 45 in six offices sprinkled around the world, and its '82 budget is "still somewhere wallowing on the Hill," according to spokesman Larry Gaffney.

Several administrations have tried to scuttle the office, and it is a favored target of campaigning congressmen casting about for an example of government lard to malign before the voters. An office whose name and mission are described with words like "travel" and "tourism," Gaffney sighs, "has a frivolous ring to it."

But there is nothing frivolous about a multibillion-dollar foreign tourist industry, and even the congressmen who so blithely condemn the travel service during the election season know it. More than half belong to the tourism caucuses in the Senate and House.

So the office lives, albeit with a smaller budget than it has had in the past, and its director, Frederick M. Bush, now a mere assistant secretary, will get the infinitely more high-falutin' title of undersecretary of commerce for tourism.

Which won't appear on his letterhead for a while. The U.S. Travel Service will live on in correspondence until its supplies of stationery are used up. These are, after all, austere times.