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A Crucial Step Toward Pandemic Recovery and Revitalizing Hospitality

Despite being among the hardest hit by the pandemic, hotels are the only segment of the hospitality and leisure industry yet to receive direct COVID-related federal aid.


Chip Rogers

President and CEO, American Hotel & Lodging Association

Saying the last 18 months have been tough for the men and women of the hotel industry would be an understatement.

Since the pandemic hit, lockdowns and other travel and gathering restrictions have led to historically low occupancy, monumental job loss, and an unprecedented number of property closures.

The impact of corporate travel

While the uptick in leisure travel this summer was welcome news, the continued lack of business travel and large-scale meetings and events will have long-term, negative consequences for hotel employees and small businesses unless immediate action is taken.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, corporate travel is projected to remain at only 30 percent of 2019 levels through the end of 2021. This would cost the hotel industry an estimated $59 billion in 2021.

A recent Morning Consult survey found that more than two-thirds of business travelers are likely to take fewer trips this year, and most are likely to take shorter trips given the news of rising cases of the COVID-19 delta variant. More than half of business travelers say they are likely to cancel existing travel plans with no plans to reschedule.

Nationwide, business travel is down from pre-pandemic levels, and it’s not expected to fully return until 2024. All of this poses a major threat to a workforce still reeling from the pandemic’s initial wave of economic hardship.

Hardship and resilience

In July, the leisure and hospitality sector remained down 1.74 million jobs compared to February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the hotel industry is projected to end 2021 down nearly half a million jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels. A recent study from the American Hotel & Lodging Association found hotel room revenue will be down $44 billion this year compared to 2019. Thousands of hotels are facing foreclosure and risk closing permanently.

Hotels and their employees have displayed extraordinary resilience in the face of unprecedented economic challenges. Yet despite being among the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, hotels are the only segment of the hospitality and leisure sector yet to receive direct COVID-related aid.

The Save Hotel Jobs Act

That’s why AHLA and UNITE HERE, the largest hospitality workers’ union in North America, have joined forces to call on Congress to pass the bipartisan Save Hotel Jobs Act (S. 1519 and H.R. 3093). The bipartisan bill would be a lifeline for hotel workers, providing payroll grants to help hotels retain or rehire workers and personal protective equipment tax credits to promote worker safety measures.

Hotel employees and small business owners across the nation have been pleading for direct pandemic relief for over a year now, and now is the time for Congress to listen to those calls and pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act.

Until that happens, hotels stand ready to safely welcome back travelers. The hotel industry has always prided itself on its longstanding commitment to cleanliness and safety. That’s why at the onset of the pandemic, the industry united around the AHLA’s “Safe Stay” initiative, a comprehensive set of guest and worker safety guidelines for the COVID era that remain in place today. 

While pandemic-related challenges remain, hotels’ dedication to quality service remains the same.

It’s time for Congress to recognize the long road to recovery hotel employees and small businesses face and pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act — a crucial step toward revitalizing hospitality.

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