Coronavirus and Meetings
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As the pandemic stretches into its fifth month, consumer confidence in the return to travel is waning, and the industry is anxiously awaiting the next stimulus package in hopes it will include funding for convention and visitor bureaus and hospitality businesses.
Travel has been among the industries hardest hit by COVID-19, with an economic impact that is expected to be nine times worse than that of 9/11. According to polling from the tourism market-research company Destination Analysts, the number of Americans who said they plan to travel this fall has dropped to 36 percent, down from 50 percent in early June. In addition, three-quarters of those polled said they are unlikely to attend conferences until the coronavirus situation is resolved. Making things worse, recent spikes in cases have caused some states to pause their reopening plans and are likely to delay the rebound in travel, according to the U.S. Travel Association. In an effort to keep the industry afloat, the association has issued new policy requests to Congress for the next coronavirus relief package.
"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 8 million jobs we've lost so far will remain gone for good without aggressive federal intervention to keep the industry on life support."
The requests include:
- Extending the Paycheck Protection Program until the end of the year, expanding eligibility to include convention and visitor bureaus, increasing the loan amount and allowing for a second loan.
- Providing up to $10 million in federal grants to promote safe and healthy travel practices to help restart the industry.
- Issuing temporary liability protections for travel businesses to reopen.
- Creating temporary tax credits, including one to encourage Americans to travel, a tax credit to restore activity in the meetings sector, and one to help businesses offset the cost of mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
"Our asks of Congress are big because the problem is massive, and is only growing right before our eyes," said Dow. "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."