A recent survey, conducted by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), found that without more federal help, the travel agency industry could be decimated by the continuing impact of COVID-19.
Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA, released a statement on Thursday calling for the federal government to act now to provide additional relief to travel agencies in the U.S.
Kerby wrote that while a lot of industries have been hit hard from COVID-19, “few sectors have been as hard hit, or face a longer road to recovery, than the travel agency industry.”
“With more than 90% of our members reporting revenue down 75% or more versus 2019, layoffs and furloughs spread wide throughout the industry and a projected three-to-12 month lag time in business income returning after bookings resume, It cannot be overstated – these are incredibly difficult times for travel agencies across the country.”
According to the ASTA survey, which took input from over 1,200 advisors, 75% have laid off or furloughed at least one employee and 43% have laid off at least three quarters of their staff. Those numbers come even as agencies got some help from the passage of the CARES Act at the end of March.
“Without additional relief from Congress and the federal government, these negative trends will continue and widespread agency closures will become the norm. An astonishing 71.3% of travel advisors will be out of business in six months or less without additional relief. This would leave travel suppliers’ main distribution channel crippled, and the traveling public left without access to the critical services that travel planners provide,” Kerby said.
To prevent further damage, ASTA is calling on Congress to include “travel agencies as eligible recipients in any airline payroll support funding, the RESTART Act to provide long-term forgivable loans to the hardest-hit businesses and an extension at least through the end of the year of expanded unemployment benefits for laid-off agency employees and independent contractors.
“As the only trade association advocating for travel advisors, we are spending every waking hour making this case to Congress, and encourage anyone who hasn’t yet participated in our grassroots campaign to do so today,” Kerby added.
ASTA was able to get travel agencies specifically named in the CARES Act, the third round of COVID-19 relief that passed through Congress in late March. “Ticket agents,” which ASTA says is the statutory term for agencies were included as eligible businesses for some of the $25 billion in relief included in the bill.