The coronavirus pandemic has continued to cripple the travel industry, which previously supported 11 percent of the nation's workforce. Approximately 65 percent of all American jobs lost to Covid-19 were supported by the travel industry. In total, 5.6 million travel-related jobs were lost in 2020, according to new research from the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics.
As a result of travel restrictions and fear of contagion, international inbound visitations fell 76 percent, from 79.4 million in 2019 to 19.4 million in 2020. Domestic travel also tumbled from 2.3 million trips to 1.6 million. Meanwhile, travel-generated taxes fell 34 percent. Travel spending in the U.S. declined by $500 billion and cost the nation $1.1 trillion in total economic output.
The research was released in conjunction with Destination Capitol Hill, an annual legislative day organized by the U.S. Travel Association. Hundreds of industry leaders from across the country are expected to meet virtually with members of Congress today. Meeting priorities include:
- Providing relief for travel industry businesses;
- Advancing stimulus measures to drive travel demand;
- Positioning the U.S. to welcome back international travel; and
- Bringing back meetings and business travel safely.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, growing optimism around Covid-19 vaccines and the $1.9 trillion stimulus package which was signed into law last week by President Biden are encouraging, but are not enough to save the industry.
"While the gradual progress of vaccinations has provided hope that a turnaround may be on the horizon, it is still unclear when travel demand will be able to fully rebound on its own," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "With the travel industry suffering such a disproportionate share of losses, policymakers need to understand that a nationwide economic recovery effectively hinges on a travel recovery."
The American Rescue Plan, which was signed by President Biden on March 11, includes millions in funding for the national vaccination program and expanded testing. Aid for the travel industry includes:
- $350 billion to state and local governments, with explicit authority given to allow funds to aid the travel and tourism industry;
- $3 billion for Economic Development Administration grants, with 25 percent ($750 million) set aside for communities affected by job loss in travel and tourism;
- Extension of the Employee Retention Tax Credit through the end of 2021 and enhancements for businesses experiencing at least a 90 percent decline in revenue;
- $8 billion in grants for airports with $800 million set aside for airport concessionaires;
- $15 billion to airlines through the Payroll Support Program; and
- Assurance that eligible applicants for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program can access both SVOG and PPP funds.
Still, Dow noted in a statement issued last week that there are several much-needed provisions not included in the bill. Specifically, the U.S. Travel Association is calling on Congress to extend the Paycheck Protection Program deadline through June 30, and allow the hardest-hit industries to take a third-draw loan. The industry has also rallied behind the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, which would include tax credits and other incentives to accelerate recovery.
"The latest round of relief was helpful to our industry, but there are a number of important steps that still must be taken, especially extending the deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program and passing the key package of tax incentives in the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act," said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S Travel Association. "The PPP is set to expire in just two weeks, yet the economic effects of the pandemic will continue to harm the industry far beyond that point."