The unemployment rate for the U.S. travel industry stands at 51 percent, more than twice that of the national average of 25 percent during the Great Depression, according to the U.S. Travel Association. “Our national economy is in a recession, but the travel industry is already in a depression,” said Roger Dow, USTA’s president and CEO.

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has cost half of the 15.8 million travel-related jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Travel Association. The association is asking the federal government for more assistance for the travel industry.

The unemployment rate for the travel industry, 51 percent, is more than twice that of the national average of 25 percent during the Great Depression, USTA said in a statement. The usually busy Memorial Day weekend is expected to generate $4.2 billion in travel related revenue compared to $12.3 billion in 2019.

“Our national economy is in a recession, but the travel industry is already in a depression,” said Roger Dow, USTA’s president and CEO. “The travel industry has exhibited the ability to lead a national economic recovery, bouncing back well ahead of expectations after both 9/11 and the financial crisis of the late 2000s. But to do that this time, travel-reliant businesses need to survive until a recovery can truly begin. Not only are structural changes and expanded eligibility to the PPP critical for the most impacted travel businesses just to keep the lights on, but ultimately stimulative measures will be important.”

Like AAHOA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and other hotel associations did this week, USTA has sent to Congress policy proposals outlining what the next stimulus should include. That includes guidance for travelers to negotiate the “new normal” particularly during the summer season.

“Whatever government and health authorities decide about the right timing to reopen, we are giving consumers confidence that the travel ecosystem is embracing the most vigorous and well-informed practices for providing the safest possible environment, and those practices adhere to a uniform high standard throughout every phase of a traveler’s journey,” Dow said. “That is critical as the industry prepares for the return of travel, which will bring jobs back and help rebuild the country’s economic strength.”

Dow also endorsed the “Explore America” tax credit to spur the recovery of the travel industry and President Trump’s support for the bill.

“Travel supported jobs for one in every 10 Americans before the pandemic, and measures to incent travel will not only give people a renewed appreciation for this great country in which we live, but they are an efficient and effective way to ignite a recovery and restore jobs in every corner of the nation,” he said. “An ‘Explore America’ tax credit and campaign will do wonders to put America back on the path to prosperity.”

AAHOA and AHLA’s letter also suggests several incentives to encourage travel.

Set federal per diem rates for fiscal year 2021-22 based on fiscal year 2019 data. The General Services Administration updates per diem rates for federal travel within the U.S annually according to ADR data, less five percent. Due to restrictions related the pandemic, the ADR collected this year will produce significantly depressed per diem rates.

Reinstate the entertainment business expense deduction. Restoring the full deductibility of entertainment and food and beverage business expenses will incentivize businesses to begin traveling again and will provide a boost to the food service and entertainment sector.

Create a Temporary Travel Tax Credit. The new tax credit would encourage domestic business and leisure travelers to journey within a specified time frame. Qualified travel expenses should include any purchase over $50 that is incurred while traveling away from home in the U.S., such as meals, lodging, recreation, transportation, amusement or entertainment, business meetings or events and gasoline.