Travel Industry Outlines Relief Needs

The U.S. Travel Association has submitted policy requests for the next round of coronavirus relief as polling suggests Americans are becoming warier of travel.

Americans’ views on travel are souring as states that reopened are closing up shop to prevent the spread of COVID-19, making it necessary for the industry to propose fresh measures to support companies devastated by a near halt to travel.

The slate of proposals includes measures that will help travel employers survive the worst of the slowdown. Measures provide assistance with health-related necessities such as sanitation and personal protective gear as well as, when appropriate, incentives to get Americans safely back to travel.

The U.S. Travel Association warns that, without these measures, the industry could fall into a depression lasting long after recovery.

The latest polls show that 58 percent of leisure travelers say they will substitute vacations with staycations for the remainder of the year.

Forty-three percent say they miss flying on a plane; however, just 37 percent say they feel safe flying right now.

It is no surprise that business travelers have turned to online engagement. Seventy-four percent said that they are more likely to substitute business meetings that require flying with virtual meetings for the remainder of the year.

A large majority, 77 percent, say that they support states enacting mandatory 14-day quarantines for out-of-state travelers from states with a high resurgence of COVID-19.

“You name it, this industry and its workers need it,” said U.S. Travel Association 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.

“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,” Dow added.

The U.S. Travel Association is asking for the following:

—Extend the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) until the end of the year; expand eligibility to destination marketing organizations (DMOs)—both non-profit and quasi-governmental entities that conduct economic development; increase the amount of the loan, and allow for a second loan. In any transition to a longer-term solution, DMOs and other non-profits should be included.

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

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

—Create temporary tax credits and deductions, including a tax credit to encourage Americans to travel at the right time; a tax credit to restore activity in the business meetings and events sector, including conventions and trade shows; increase the 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 businesses’ abilities to retain and rehire workers.

—Support airports.

Dow also stressed that, while the government can assist, Americans also need to do their part.

“In order for jobs to be able to return, everyone needs to be wearing masks in public,” Dow said. “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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