MINNEAPOLIS -- Travel industry leaders are asking the Bush administration to consider a 100 percent tax deduction for all travel and related expenses to give the struggling industry a boost following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"To get America moving, we need to start moving Americans," Marilyn Carlson Nelson, head of Carlson Cos. Inc., told Commerce Secretary Donald Evans during a closed meeting Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Nelson, speaking on behalf of the industry's travel agents, hotels, car rental agencies, airlines, passenger railroads and related businesses, estimated the $650 billion travel and tourism industry is looking at a decline of 35 percent overall following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The industry employs 17 million people, is directly linked to 1 in 17 jobs in the United States and generates $99 billion in tax revenue, said Nelson, chairwoman and chief executive of the giant Minnetonka-based travel and hospitality company, which includes Radisson hotels and Carlson Wagonlit travel agencies.
Nelson described the presentation in a telephone interview following the meeting.
Citing figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council, Nelson said a 10 percent decrease in travel and tourism would result in a loss of 1.2 million jobs in the United States, while a 30 percent decrease would result in a loss of 2.4 million jobs.
Many of those cuts could be permanent, said Doug Cody, a spokesman for Carlson Cos., who estimated 100,000 of the nation's 300,000 travel agent jobs are in jeopardy.
Nelson was among 15 industry leaders who met with Evans in what they described as a mini-summit to discuss ways to rebuild public confidence in the safety of travel and help businesses hold on until demand for travel picks up.
Although the group earlier had talked about asking for about $5 billion in federal help, that request was not made, Nelson said. Any direct aid would have come on top of the $15 billion federal aid package already approved for airlines.
Jonathan Tisch, chief executive of Loews Hotels and chairman of the 60-member Travel Business Roundtable, said in a telephone interview that business at Loews Hotels is down 50 percent to 60 percent since the terrorist attacks.
"This is a first step in our goal to educate the administration and our elected officials about the severe blow that our industry is taking due to the tragedy that has befallen all Americans," Tisch said.
"The pain is being felt through the industry. If a person is not using a travel agent to book flights, they're not on the airplane, they're not staying in hotels, they're not renting a car, they're not eating in a restaurant and they're not shopping in retail," he said.
"It is now incumbent upon us to work with the government to ensure that the travel industry remains strong and that we protect the millions and millions of our employees who face possible layoffs," he said.
"We felt it was a start," Jonathan Linen, vice chairman of American Express, said by telephone after the meeting. "Anything we can do in the industry to communicate the severity, we need to do right now. We're on a burning platform here."
The government needs to do more to let the people know what is being done to improve the safety of travel, Linen said.
"They can say it's safe to travel. The president can do that. People need to feel their government is outfront and doing what it is doing," he said.
Evans and other administration representatives "were there to listen" and made no commitments during the meeting, Linen said.
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