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USA Tourism Industry Still Looking for COVID Relief

Eighty-seven percent of respondents to a recent survey—all of whom voted in the November 3rd election—believe there should be another round of coronavirus-related relief from Washington, according to results released Tuesday by the U.S. Travel Association.

The survey, conducted for U.S. Travel by the research firm Heart + Mind Strategies LLC, was taken from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 voters. It found strong majority support for another relief bill among every voter group, demographic subgroup, and geographic region.

us travel

U.S. Travel represents the U.S. economic sector—America’s travel and tourism industry—that is suffering by far the most from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Total travel spending in the U.S. is projected to finish the year down 45% percent from 2019, and travel—which prior to the pandemic supported employment for one out of every 10 Americans—now accounts for more than a third of all the current unemployment in the country.

Travel fundamentally cannot begin a recovery with alarming pandemic trends now causing new rounds of closures and restrictions. U.S. Travel has been pleading for months for leaders to reach agreement on a fresh round of relief so that travel businesses can keep their doors open long enough to rehire their workers when conditions finally improve.

At a minimum, U.S. Travel has said, rescuing travel jobs requires enhancements to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to allow a second draw of funds; an expansion of PPP’s eligibility to allow non-profit and quasi-governmental destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to access aid; and an extension of the Coronavirus Relief Program through the end of 2021.

The survey released by U.S. Travel also found that four in five voters (79%) want the two political parties to work together on policy, up slightly from a similar poll conducted in 2018 (75%). That result includes overwhelming majorities of both Biden voters (82%) and Trump voters (76%).

U.S. Travel is a founding member of the COVID RELIEF NOW Coalition, a large and diverse group of public- and private-sector groups urging policymakers to move ahead with another legislative package on coronavirus-related economic relief.

My take

The travel and tourism industry has been stuck in recession since the pandemic hit the United States hard in March, and while parts of the industry are starting to come back and I’ve seen more and more of the industry come back to life, it’s still reeling.

Many travel/tourism sector employees are still unemployed; freelance rates have dropped or budgets disappeared entirely. Like others have written, I believe the future of the travel industry is going to be very different from what we were used to.

Until the U.S. government gets involved and provides support for the thousands of small businesses and independent creators, freelancers, tour guides, and businesses, the tourism industry is going to have to shrink. It’s why I’ve been reflecting on the future of my own blog, and why I’m eager for something new.

It’s time for the government to act and provide more COVID relief—for all Americans, but especially for the tourism industry. It will be many years before travel comes back in the way it once was, even with a vaccine on the near horizon. Many of the biggest travel/tourism businesses are likely to be slow to re-invest, evidenced by the decline I personally noticed in LGBTQ travel work.