U.S. Travel to Senate Subcommittee: Enact Strategies to Restart Travel

The newly formed U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, led by Chairwoman Jacky Rosen and Ranking Member Rick Scott, held its first-ever hearing today, entitled “The State of Travel and Tourism During COVID.” This hearing examined the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel and tourism industry, with a focus on hotels, conventions and the broader hospitality industry. It also reviewed regional impacts of COVID on tourism-heavy economies and those communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic's resulting economic downturn.

U.S. Travel Association’s Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy, joined three other expert witnesses, including Steve Hill, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors AuthorityJorge Perez, regional portfolio president of MGM Resorts International; and Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. They each shared testimony relating to the impact of the global pandemic on the travel economy.

U.S. Travel identified four key priorities to restore travel demand, accelerate rehiring in the travel sector and shorten the timeline for recovery: 

  1. The safe and quick reopening of international travel
  2. Approval of clear guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to safely restart professional meetings and events
  3. Enactment by Congress of the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act to spur incremental demand and accelerate rehiring
  4. The provision of temporary emergency funding by Congress for Brand USA to welcome visitors back to the U.S.

Specific policies should also be implemented to improve the industry’s long-term competitiveness and ensure we come back stronger and better than ever, such as: 

  1. Enacting the Visit America Act to elevate permanent leadership in federal government on travel policies
  2. Investing in repairing and modernizing travel infrastructure

Following the meeting, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement, “A full U.S. economic recovery won’t happen without the reopening of travel. The travel and tourism industry accounted for a staggering 65 percent of U.S. jobs lost last year, so restoring this sector needs to be a national priority.” 

It is fitting that the new tourism subcommittee also have jurisdiction over trade promotion, because international traveler spending in the U.S. counts as an export and was the country’s No. 2 industry export prior to the pandemic. 

Said Barnes in a written statement: “We need the federal government to enact the right policies to ensure all sectors of travel can recover as quickly as possible. There is a great deal at stake, and any delay in restarting widespread travel will only harm the economy further. A U.S. economic rebound depends upon all of this.”

For Barnes’ full written statement, see www.ustravel.org.

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