For over a year and a half, Americans have had their lives turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. The public health crisis has touched all of us, leaving no sector of our economy unscathed. But one industry has particularly suffered and faces the toughest road to recovery — the hotel and lodging industry.
The period since the COVID-19 pandemic began has been the worst on record for hotels, devastating a vibrant industry.
The main source of hotel revenue — business travel — has been decimated and is not projected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were roughly 1.74 million fewer leisure and hospitality jobs in August 2021 than in February 2020. The jobless rate in the accommodations sector is nearly triple that of the rest of the economy, and Florida is on pace to end 2021 down more than 44,000 hotel jobs compared to 2019.
While some hotels saw increases in leisure travel this summer, concerns over the rise of the Delta variant, along with the ongoing lack of business travel, means that hotels and their employees will continue to struggle. Yet, hotels are the only segment of the hospitality and leisure industry that have not received direct aid from Congress.
That is why I joined with Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCongress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Alabama Republican touts provision in infrastructure bill he voted against Telehealth was a godsend during the pandemic; Congress should keep the innovation going MORE (D-Hawaii) to introduce the Save Hotel Jobs Act — legislation that is critical to the survival of one of the most important industries in nearly every community across the country.
A report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) found that without congressional action, the industry will end 2021 down approximately 500,000 jobs. This means one in five hotel jobs will not return by year’s end. This is not sustainable.
Additionally, a new survey from Morning Consult and AHLA shows that rising concerns over the Delta variant are causing travelers to cancel, reduce, and postpone trips. Sixty-seven percent of U.S. business travelers plan to take fewer trips, while 69 percent of U.S. leisure travelers plan to do the same. These findings highlight what over 200 hotels in my district have made clear to me: hotel employees are in desperate need of a lifeline.
At the onset of the pandemic, Congress passed various relief programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and federally supported COBRA coverage, to protect workers and small businesses. Unfortunately, those lifelines are running out and the hotel industry is continuing to struggle, leaving workers up a creek without a paddle.
The Save Hotel Jobs Act would create a crucial payroll support program to assist hotel workers and hoteliers through the pandemic. Specifically, the legislation would provide up to three months of payroll support for a hotel that can demonstrate a 40 percent revenue decline between 2019 and 2020. Importantly, 100 percent of the grant would be used on employee payroll and benefits. The legislation also includes strong right-of-recall provisions to get our hotel workers back on the job, and a tax credit to give hotel owners an additional tool to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep workers and guests safe.
The Save Hotel Jobs Act is supported by both industry and UNITE HERE — the largest hospitality workers union in North America — underscoring the importance of getting this bill across the finish line.
The time to act is now. Congress has already helped other travel and tourism sectors with the passage of the Airline Payroll Support Program, Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and Save our Stages Act. Conditions for hotels are just as bad, or worse, than any other industry, and circumstances remain dire for the foreseeable future.
From big cities to small towns, hotels are critical for our economy. The Save Hotel Jobs Act would help sustain our hotels until travel patterns get back to normal. I hope my colleagues in the House and Senate join me in supporting this necessary legislation on behalf of American workers.
Crist represents Florida's 13th District.