Hotel associations spell out industry needs in letter to Congress

As the latest round of federal stimulus moves into a hostile Senate, hoteliers urge action to save jobs

While The ‘‘Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act’’ makes its way through Congress, AAHOA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and other hospitality industry groups have sent a letter to the capital outlining what hotels need, including an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program and loan relief.

THE LATEST ROUND of federal stimulus to brake the economic slide brought on by the COVID-19  pandemic has passed the House but is facing a tough battle in the Senate. In the meantime, several hospitality industry groups have sent Washington a detailed list of what they would like to see included in the legislation to benefit hotels.

The ‘‘Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act’’ is meant to follow and continue the mission of the current “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act” if it finds its way to, and past, the president’s desk. While  it has passed the Democrat controlled House where it was introduced, Senate Republicans previously declared it a liberal wish-list and vowed to fight it.

Entering into the fray, on Wednesday AAHOA and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, along with the Latino Hotel Association, and the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers, sent a detailed letter to Congress outlining the provisions they want to see included.

“It is imperative that our lawmakers take concrete steps to ensure the viability of our travel and tourism industry as this health crisis persists,” said Cecil Staton, AAHOA president and CEO, in a statement. “From protecting employees and providing limited safe harbor to hotels that abide by proper public health guidelines to supporting small businesses using relief programs and ensuring industry solvency, Congress can make a real difference in assisting one of the industries hit hardest by this crisis.”

There are four main areas of concern listed in the letter:

  • Extend the Paycheck Protection Program previously funded by the CARES Act as well as offering hotel employees direct tuition assistance or tax credits and expanding the Employee Retention Credit.
  • Provide tax credits for cleaning equipment and personal protective equipment for employees.
  • Give relief for hotel commercial mortgages and increase the size and flexibility of PPP loans.
  • Incentivize Americans to travel again when it’s safe with a new, temporary travel tax credit and the restoration of the entertainment business expense deduction.

Citing that the April Jobs Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the hospitality and leisure industry lost 7.7 million jobs, the groups said the aid is needed now.

“The hospitality industry is in a fight for survival,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, in a statement. “We are grateful to the leadership of both parties during one of the most difficult health and economic challenges we have faced. We are urging Congress to do even more to help the hotel industry so that our small business hotel operators can keep the lights on and retain and rehire employees.”

During a roundtable discussion about the travel and tourism industry with Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other industry leaders this week, Danny Gaekwad, Chairman of OSEM Hospitality Management in Ocala, Florida, touched on the issues of extending and expanding the PPP and more regulation of CMBS loans. He said hotels would need federal assistance in reopening to guests.

“This pandemic hit the hotel industry particularly hard, and owners and employees alike continue to struggle,” Gaekwad said. “Reopening our businesses with common sense precautions that prioritize the health and wellbeing of employees and guests will help our industry and our state get our economy moving again.”