Tourism industry calls for $150 billion in assistance

Tourism industry calls for $150 billion in assistance
© Greg Nash

The U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) on Tuesday called on Congress and the administration to provide $150 billion in overall relief to the broader travel sector as it struggles through a coronavirus epidemic. 

The travel industry suggested the federal government establish a travel workforce stabilization fund for the retention and rehiring of employees, provide an emergency liquidity facility for travel business, and optimize and modify the Small Business Association loan program to support small businesses and their employees.

The coronavirus will have a more “severe economic impact on the hotel industry than 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined,” AHLA CEO Chip Rogers said on a press call with reporters on Tuesday. 

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Rogers and U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow met with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE and Vice President Pence, along with hotel executives and other travel representatives, on Tuesday.

The airline industry this week, through Airlines for America, requested $50 billion in the form of grants, loans and tax relief to weather the coronavirus-induced downturn. 

Asked if the broader travel sector wants a relief package separate from the airline package, Rogers said, “however Congress wants to package it ... we’ll take it.”

He also noted that the whole tourism industry has about a 4.5 times bigger workforce than the airline industry.

Hotel occupancy has fallen “somewhere between 10 and 20 percent in major markets” this week, Rogers said. He also predicted that 140 million rooms or more could be empty in the next 30 days.

Rogers added that after the meeting on Tuesday, he felt that “the president understands the severity of the problem.” 

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Trump on Monday said he will help the airlines but didn’t explicitly commit to the roughly $50 billion requested in assistance.

Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), are pushing back on the airlines’ request, saying the priority should be helping ordinary Americans.

The White House is seeking a roughly $850 billion economic stimulus package from Congress to address the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“The urgent steps we have recommended for the White House and Congress are more important today more than ever,” Rogers said on the call.

The U.S. Travel Association projected that an estimated 4.6 million travel-related American jobs will be lost due to the coronavirus, affecting more than 25 percent of the 15.8 million Americans who work in the sector.