New Report Puts COVID Damage Into Perspective, Amplifies Message for Relief
It’s no secret that the U.S. hospitality and travel industries have taken a major hit since COVID-19 took hold. But a new report from the U.S. Department of Labor confirms that they took the lion’s share of damage during the past year.
The latest DOL jobs report has found that 39% of the American jobs last since February 2020 came from the leisure and hospitality sectors—triple the number of the next most devastated industry (government, which saw its workforce drop by 13%).
There is a current 16% unemployment rate among leisure and hospitality companies, nearly triple the overall U.S. employment rate of 6%.
“The math is pretty easy: the U.S. economy won’t get back on track until the leisure and hospitality sector is back on track, and that’s going to take aggressive policy actions,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement.
Days before the report’s release, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan amendment attempting to speed the industries’ recovery. Proposed by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), the legislation prioritizes the hard-hit hospitality sector as Congress works through President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
The most practical measure of the amendment is that it establishes a deficit-neutral reserve fund to support hospitality, conventions, trade shows, entertainment, tourism and travel and their workers.
“Our communities cannot afford to see these industries decimated, and I’m glad to have passed this bipartisan amendment to expand support for our struggling hospitality sector and provide relief for the workers in the industries hardest hit by this pandemic,” said Masto in a statement.
While a handful of events are going on as scheduled, the pandemic has pushed a lot of hotels and event companies to the brink. Many are hoping to stay afloat long enough for vaccine distributions to not only inoculate the general public from the virus, but also the related fear of travel.
As the country and the world approach the one-year anniversary of when the pandemic ushered in travel restrictions, social distancing measures and quarantining, the entire meetings and events industry is taking stock of the damage.
UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, recently released a report with similarly grim details to the Department of Labor statistics. Research from the Paris-based association found that the global exhibition industry has shrunk by 68% compared to 2019, affecting 2.4 million jobs.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the exhibition industry, as well as those sectors who benefit from face-to-face events,” said Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director and CEO. “The impact has not just been felt by exhibitors, who showcase their products and develop their sales, but also by those involved in tourism-related activities.”
It should be noted that UFI sees light at the end of the tunnel, predicting revenues will double in 2021 compared to last year.
Nevertheless, industry lobbyists like USTA are not letting up on their efforts. Among the association’s requests to Congress and President Biden are:
- Extend and enhance the Paycheck Protection Program to provide a third draw for businesses that continue to face difficulties due to COVID-19.
- Provide grants for hard-hit sectors within the travel industry.
- Provide $2.25 billion in EDA grants to promote safe and healthy travel practices.
- Provide $17 billion in additional relief for commercial airports and airport concessionaires.
Waiting on general distribution of vaccines is not an option, Dow said.
“There are still unknowns about when travel will restart in earnest,” he said. “What is fully known is that the pandemic’s effect on travel is continuing to cause devastating economic and employment harm, and the only way to correct that is through aggressive action.”