Industry groups get behind Senate hospitality and travel relief bill

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The Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act of 2020 was introduced Thursday in the Senate.
The Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act of 2020 was introduced Thursday in the Senate.

Travel trade groups -- including the U.S. Travel Association, ASTA and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) -- are rallying behind the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act of 2020, a new bipartisan bill that aims to "provide comprehensive relief and recovery measures for the convention, trade show, entertainment, travel and hospitality industries."

Among the measures called for in the legislation, which was introduced by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) and Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) on Thursday, are new tax incentives for the hospitality and trade show sectors. These include a general business credit for the cost of attending or hosting a convention, business meeting or trade show in the U.S. between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2023.

Another general business credit within the bill is designed to support the restaurant industry, covering costs associated with reopening or increasing service at an establishment that's been either forced to close down or reduce operations due to the pandemic.

Also included is an enhanced employee-retention tax credit, which Cortez Masto and Cramer say will "help maintain the vital connection between workers and their employers."

The bill also will provide tax credits to Americans who spend money on travel through 2023.

Specifically, the bill would credit individuals for 50% of their qualified travel expenses, defined as expenses above $25 incurred during a trip that is at least 50 miles from home and includes an overnight stay. The credit maxes out at $1,500 per household plus $500 for each qualifying child, providing a combined maximum benefit of $3,000 for a family of five. The credit begins phasing out for individuals making over $75,000, and married couples making over $150,000 per year.

"Targeted economic relief for struggling travel-related businesses needs to be a significant priority in America's broader economic recovery plan," Tori Emerson Barnes, the U.S. Travel Association's executive vice president of public affairs and policy, said in support of the bill. "The leisure and hospitality industry has suffered nearly 40% of all job losses nationwide, and a staggering 50% of all travel-supported jobs will be lost by the end of December if there is no federal intervention to provide aid."

U.S. Travel estimates that the country's travel economy has shrunk by $402 billion since March and that travel spending has declined by 45% since last year.

In a statement, Eben Peck, ASTA's executive vice president for advocacy, said ASTA "strongly supports" the legislation.

"It will provide immediate benefits to many of our members -- which is welcome as many of the Cares Act relief programs have run dry -- while stimulating the recovery of the travel industry, the health of which is central to the overall U.S. economy," Peck said.

According to Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, the bill "is exactly what the hotel industry needs to help drive demand, bring back jobs and reignite a continued investment in the communities they serve."

In late September, the AHLA released survey results indicating that around 68% of the group's hotel members have less than half of their typical, precrisis staff working full time and that without further governmental assistance, 74% will be forced into further layoffs.

Additionally, 68% of hotels reported that they would only be able to last six more months at current projected revenue and occupancy levels absent any further relief.

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