Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, more than half of the 15.8 million travel-related jobs in the U.S. have disappeared, according to a new report from the U.S. Travel Association.
The unemployment rate for tourism jobs is 51 percent, more than double the 25 percent rate the country experienced at the height of the Great Depression.
The news comes just as the U.S. readies for Memorial Day Weekend, which is generally seen as the start of the summer travel season. However, this year, Tourism Economics projects that travel spending in the U.S. will tally just one-third of last year’s levels—$4.2 billion this year versus $12.3 billion in 2019.
“Our national economy is in a recession, but the travel industry is already in a depression,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. “Travel-related businesses have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic’s fallout, and unfortunately our workforce is on the front lines of that struggle.
“The travel industry has exhibited the ability to lead a national economic recovery, bouncing back well ahead of expectations after both 9/11 and the financial crisis of the late 2000s,” said Dow. “But to do that this time, travel-reliant businesses need to survive until a recovery can truly begin. Not only are structural changes and expanded eligibility to the PPP critical for the most impacted travel businesses just to keep the lights on, but ultimately stimulative measures will be important.”
The U.S. Travel Association has taken steps to help mitigate the problems within the industry as well as help restore tourism jobs quickly when travel resumes.
The association has acknowledged that Congress’ efforts have good intentions but that more aid is needed.
Dow noted that the public should expect travel to look and feel different for the foreseeable future, as travel businesses embrace practices aimed at promoting the safest possible environment for their customers and employees.
The association has created “Travel in the New Normal” health and safety guidance for travel businesses, drawing on input from top medical professionals and representatives of a wide array of travel industry segments.
This guidance is designed to help states and local governments with decision-making as they begin to reopen.
“Whatever government and health authorities decide about the right timing to reopen, we are giving consumers confidence that the travel ecosystem is embracing the most vigorous and well-informed practices for providing the safest possible environment, and those practices adhere to a uniformly high standard throughout every phase of a traveler’s journey,” Dow said. “That is critical as the industry prepares for the return of travel, which will bring jobs back and help rebuild the country’s economic strength.”
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