U.S. Travel: More Federal Support Needed as Enormity of 2020 Wreckage Becomes Clear

Spending on U.S. business travel in 2020 totaled $103.2 billion, down 70 percent year over year, according to a new Tourism Economics analysis released Wednesday by the U.S. Travel Association. The devastation wreaked on the travel industry by the Covid-19 pandemic shows the continuing need for U.S. federal government aid to suppliers, according to the association. 

Total U.S. travel spending in 2020, including inbound international travel, dipped 42 percent year over year to $680.3 billion, according to U.S. Travel, and 3 million jobs directly supported by the travel industry were lost last year, a 34 percent decline. 

While the U.S. has ramped up Covid-19 vaccinations and several U.S. carriers have reported an uptick in leisure sales in March, “it is still unclear when travel demand will be able to fully rebound on its own,” said U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “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.”

To that end, U.S. Travel said hundreds of travel industry representatives held virtual meetings with members of Congress as part of the group’s “Destination Capitol Hill” event to lobby for more aid and additional legislation to help stabilize the industry and spark recovery.

Specifically, U.S. Travel is pushing for an extension of the deadline for applications for the Paycheck Protection Program from March 31 to May 31, with an additional 30 days after that for the U.S. Small Business Administration to process those applications. “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,” said U.S. Travel executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes in a statement.

The group also is calling for passage of the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, introduced in Congress Feb. 25, which among other offerings would provide a tax credit for the cost of hosting a business meeting.