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Next Two Weeks Critical to Tourism Getting a Piece of the PPP Pie

2 Aug, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Industry Member Being Encouraged to Contact House Officials for Support of New Measure

Will CVBs, sports commissions and others who promote the travel economy at last get a piece of the PPP pie? The Senate recently introduced its version of relief measures, which includes extending loans to non-profit or quasi-governmental tourism marketing organizations. The next two weeks, however, will be critical in determining how far the measure goes.

News of the potential widening of the scope of the Paycheck Protection Program broke in late July. Introducing the package were Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Senators Roy Blunt (Missouri), Ted Cruz (Texas) Cory Gardner (Colorado), Sen. Rubio (Florida), and Tim Scott (South Carolina), all of whom have advocated strongly for tourism efforts in their states.

These senators, notes US Travel Association Roger Dow, are aware of the relationship between investment in the tourism economy and the road back to economic health of the country.

“The travel industry, which helped employ one in 10 Americans last year, has been hit hardest by the economic fallout of the pandemic, having lost half its jobs already and on track for a drop of more than a half-trillion dollars in traveler spending by year’s end,” said Dow. “Travel workers have a strong case to be a top priority in the next legislative package, and unless their employers can survive the worst of this downturn, a massive share of those jobs simply will not come back even as the overall economy begins to improve. A broader recovery won’t happen unless a travel recovery can happen, and that is going to take a comprehensive effort of relief, protection and eventual stimulus to prevent the travel industry depression from going on for years.”

As the new relief package moves through Congress, the U.S. Travel Association has noted, it is key for constituents to contact their elected officials to vote in favor of the measure in its entirety.

U.S. Travel has set up a special landing page to allow those in the industry, not only destinations but event owners, rights holders and allied agencies, to voice their support for the new measure. Included are sample lettersto e-mail to newspapers, hashtags to use on social media and links to sign up for updates as they develop.

To find out who the elected officials are at your district, local, state and national levels, along with their e-mail addresses, phone numbers and other contact information, click here.

But if enthusiasm in the USA is tempered by a dose of cynicism, it’s only because many CVBs and sports commissions have heard the promises before, only to have them not come through. More than a month ago, the US Travel Association’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes, issued a stinging reminder to lawmakers about the shortcomings of the current program, noting that 501(c)(6) organizations “are vital drivers of local and regional economic development. Like the businesses they serve, the finances of these non-profits have been devastated by the standstill in travel and tourism, and the moment of recovery will be moot unless they can keep their lights on to take advantage of the return in travel demand.”

US Travel has been trying since the inception of the PPP loan program to get the scope enlarged, as has Destinations International, with no luck.

Travel Agent West, in an article entitled, “Here’s What’s Wrong with the Paycheck Protection Program,” noted that key segments of the hard-hit travel industry currently have no customers nor revenue streams.

The article quoted US Travel’s Emerson as noting that “Even travel businesses and jobs that are saved now won’t make it through the recovery without the work of DMOs to bring back travel demand once the economy reopens.”

And, said one small business owner who was quoted in the Travel Agent West article, recovery won’t come to the nation as a whole unless all aspects of the economy are considered.

“We do not need to screw this up just because we want to go fast,” she said. “We now know the shutdown is going to go a lot longer than anyone anticipated when the CARES Act was written in March. So let’s pump the brakes and recognize that when you have millions of different businesses seeking relief, any attempt to create a one-size-fits-all spending solution is a recipe for disaster.”

If the new iteration of the program passes the H and gets signed into law, says Dow, it will go a long way to helping restart the travel economy (and the country’s economy as well). US Travel is choosing optimism as its path of support for the measure.

"The Senate bill wisely expands coronavirus relief to destination marketing organizations (DMOs), which are economic development agencies that perform vital work to drive visitors to local and regional businesses, large and small,” notes Dow. "This is a welcome update to previous aid packages and will increase the chances of a robust recovery that touches every corner of the country. DMO budgets have been severely depleted by the disappearance of tourism revenues just like the businesses they serve, and without their work an economic rebound will not be nearly as strong. Senate leaders are to be credited for this foresighted measure that extends Paycheck Protection Program relief to DMOs, which lays a much more comprehensive policy groundwork for travel businesses to be able to restore jobs and fuel a national economic recovery. We thank Leader McConnell, Sen. Blunt, Sen. Cruz, Sen. Gardner, Marco Rubio, and Marco Scott for their leadership in helping to ensure that this important measure for American job creation is included in the broader relief proposal."

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