As Congress considers the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation this week, the American Society for Travel Advisors (ASTA) is asking its members to continue to help push for industry-wide relief, including targeted relief to all retail travel agency locations in the U.S., as it pushes Congress for another round of support for the trade.
In a letter from Monday signed by ASTA EVP of Advocacy Eben Peck and ASTA Director of Advocacy Genevieve Strand, ASTA submitted hits requests to Congress for the next round of COVID-19 relief. The letter is built around three requests.
The first is that Congress create an $8.3 billion travel agency grand program “akin to those created by the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021 (the last round of COVID-19 relief to be passed at the end of December) for performing art venues, movie theaters and museums ($15 billion) and motorcoach, passenger vessel and private school bus operators ($2 billion).”
That Act did provide some relief for travel agency, including more PPP money, but “it will be short-lived.” ASTA landed on that $8.3 billon amount, a number that it says is “almost certainly conservative,” through its member survey, which 1,500 ASTA member answered at the end of January.
The second is that Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services (NAICS Code 5615) be included in the Continuing Appropriations Act’s provision that allows certain business to receive a PPP loan of 3.5 times their average monthly payroll. Businesses outside that provision are allowed to receive a loan of 2.5 times their average monthly payroll.
The third is that the government “supper any and all efforts” to mitigate the impact of Transport Canada’s decision to suspend cruise ships operations, for ships carrying 100 people or over, through February 2022.
These measures, ASTA said, would help the industry back onto the road to recovery after a disastrous 2020—the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government’s response to it, cost the average travel agency business 82% of its income in 2020 compared to 2019 and, at last count, the average travel agency has laid off close to 60% of its staff.
“Government action—here and abroad—has played a key role in this catastrophe. We understand that our country is facing the worse public health crisis in history, and understand as well the rationale behind these government restrictions. That said, we believe the government has a responsibility to provide some level of support to those businesses harmed by the respond to COVID-19,” the letter says.
ASTA member can aid in the mission by writing to their representatives and visiting ASTA’s advocacy portal here.