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Travel Industry Appeals to Congress for Aid Amid COVID-19 Resurgence



U.S. travel industry leaders have just submitted a new series of proposed measures to Congress, aimed at helping employers to weather the latest wave of COVID-19-prompted re-closures, as America experiences a fresh spike in viral transmission and public fears surrounding travel rise up again.

The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) sent an appeal to Congress and the administration on July 17 asking for specific legislative action to be included in the next coronavirus relief package, essentially outlining what it will take to keep the industry afloat amid a period of prolonged famine. Pre-pandemic, the travel sector provided employment for one in ten Americans but has since seen over half of those 15.8 million jobs disappear.

Without continued broad and comprehensive federal assistance, industry leaders fear that the travel segment will remain depressed long after the country’s overall economic rebound begins. “You name it, this industry and its workers need it,” said USTA President and CEO, Roger Dow.

“Travel businesses could not possibly have prepared for this level of catastrophe, and there’s no telling how many of the eight million jobs we’ve lost so far will remain gone for good without aggressive federal intervention to keep the industry on life support,” Dow asserted.

Among the requested aid measures is support for introducing new health-related protocols and products to address enhanced sanitation and equipment needs for operating in a COVID-19 environment, as well as a plea for government incentives to get Americans traveling again once that becomes fully possible.

The latest polling data reflects the calamitous impact of recent national news on consumer sentiment when it comes to returning to travel. Destination Analysts’ research found that the percentage of respondents who plan to travel in fall 2020 is down to 36 percent from the 50 percent polled in early June.

According to a USTA press release, Harris Poll results said that 58 percent of U.S. leisure travelers will take staycations in place of actual vacations, and 74 percent of those who would otherwise be traveling for business purposes will substitute those trips with virtual meetings through the remainder of the year.

Dow said, “Our asks of Congress are big because the problem is massive and is only growing right before our eyes. Travel companies have worked hard to retain their workers, but most have had zero revenue coming in for four months now and, if they’re forced to close, they won’t be around to rehire anybody even when travel is able to resume.”

USTA’s new policy requests include:

—Extending the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) through the end of 2020; expanding eligibility to destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and nonprofits; increasing loan amounts and allowing for secondary loans.

—Providing up to $10 billion in federal grants to promote safe and healthy travel practices, which are crucial to the resumption of travel.

—Providing temporary and targeted liability protections for travel businesses to reopen.

—Creating temporary tax credits and deductions, including: a tax credit to encourage Americans to travel at the appropriate time; a tax credit to restore activity in the business meetings and events sector, including conventions and trade shows; increased deductibility of business and entertainment expenses; and a tax credit to help businesses of all sizes offset the cost of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, including the cost of structural barriers and personal protective equipment.

—Enhance the Employee Retention Tax Credit to increase business’ ability to retain and rehire workers.

—Support airports.

“In order for jobs to be able to return, everyone needs to be wearing masks in public,” Dow remarked. “It is so very clear that masks and other good health practices are absolutely critical to dissipating the health crisis and making an economic rebound possible. The country’s collective record on this needs to improve, or the pain will only go on longer.”

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