U.S. hospitality and travel industry leaders called on U.S. government officials to fuel the post-pandemic recovery via tax incentives during a virtual panel held as part of the 42nd annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on Monday, while also touting the economic benefits of tourism.
"We've proposed a tax credit for travel, and we want to show people that it's additive, because when people travel, they spend money and they create jobs," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. "We think it's one of the easiest ways to get travel moving again."
The panel, which was moderated by Loews Hotels & Co. chairman and CEO Jonathan Tisch, also featured Andy Ingraham, the president, founder and CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (Nabhood); Chip Rogers, American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) president and CEO; and president and CEO Cecil Staton of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA).
Rogers echoed Dow's comments, calling a travel tax incentive "the right idea, at the right time."
The AHLA and the U.S. Travel Association are among several travel groups that have come out in strong support of a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate in mid-October, which proposes a general business credit for the cost of attending or hosting a convention, business meeting or trade show as well as tax credits to Americans who spend money on travel through 2023, among other measures.
"We've for years been trying to tell our story about how impactful our industry is on local economies, and sometimes I felt like we were trying to convince people of something that they didn't want to be convinced about," Rogers said. "They're convinced now. Now, the question is how much are they willing to invest in it?"
According to Nabhood's Ingraham, Americans are eager to embrace travel again. He cited recent reports from American Airlines indicating that their advance bookings for 2021 have exceeded the number of advance bookings the company had in 2019 for 2020 flights.
"For the last six, eight, nine months, folks have not done any traveling to any great degree, and so there's a tremendous pent-up demand that's out there," Ingraham said. "People want to travel, and what we need to do as an industry is lobby our elected officials to provide the vehicle, through that tax credit, to get them motivated and give them the ability to pay for it."
The AAHOA's Staton also put an emphasis on government support for travel.
"[Our members] are not looking for a handout, they're just looking for some help to get to the other side," Staton said. "I hope the future, coming off this election, will bring lawmakers together, the administration together, to do something to help this industry that is so vitally important to our economy."