The travel restrictions linked to Covid-19 pandemic have put airlines, hotels, car rental businesses, restaurants, and many other stake holders on the brink of collapse. What changes could a Biden presidency bring to a beleaguered tourism industry?
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the global travel and tourism industry could lose up to 174 million jobs this year if current travel and quarantine restrictions continue. In the US alone, the Leisure & Hospitality sector accounted for 11 percent of pre-pandemic employment in the United States and that 39 percent of all jobs lost in the US economy is attributable to declines in travel, according to the US Travel Association
Both Biden and Trump want an extension of the CARES Act stimulus package, which could provide airlines with another payroll protection program bailout after thousands of workers have already been laid off.
“We applaud President-elect Biden’s objective of helping the industries most heavily impacted by the pandemic,” said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO. “The travel industry accounts for more than a third of overall U.S. unemployment, and policies to promote relief, recovery, and stimulus for travel businesses are integral to a U.S. economic turnaround.”
Earlier this year, when the pandemic reached worrisome levels, President Trump decided to ban flights to and from China. He imposed travel restrictions to and from Europe as well. Biden has said that he supports such bans and restrictions if supported by science, in other words, based on the data from the Centers for Disease Control. Biden has promised a 12-member task force to deal with the pandemic.
The whole travel and tourism industry hopes that the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act of 2020 is turned into law. According an article published in Forbes, the act introduced by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) and Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) would provide relief for the convention, trade show, entertainment, travel and hospitality industries through a package of tax credits. The multi-billion-dollar meetings and conventions industry has been affected by bans on meetings and shows. Another aspect of the travel infrastructure that requires attention is airports, some of which are in need of upgrades.
“We share the emphasis on combating the spread of Covid-19 expressed by the president-elect while building economic growth,” Roger Dow said. “The right combination of technologies and behaviors already exists to allow the restart of travel without compromising health and safety, and making rapid and reliable testing more widely available will be a key element of an even broader economic reopening.”
Virtual meetings have connected people in a new way but will that supplant travel altogether? “What we have seen in the travel industry is that the more people are connected by technology the more they want to travel—because people naturally want to be together,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “People are going to be ready to go, they’re going to want to see each other.”
Some leaders in the travel industry have expressed dissatisfaction at the reaction from the Federal Government and President Donald Trump during the pandemic. “We’d be a lot further along right now if we had actual leadership that not only helped contain the virus but also communicated what we’re doing in various industries to keep people safe,” Nelson said.
It remains to be seen whether Biden will deliver on his promises, let alone whether he will be given a chance by a current president bent on challenging the validity of the 2020 election results.