Travel Industry asks Congress for a little more hospitality

Monday - 5/18/2009, 8:16am EDT

WFED's Jane Norris

As heard on sister station WTOP

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By Jane Norris
FederalNewsRadio

The economy is taking a toll on travel - from family vacations to business trips. And the travel and tourism industry is blaming Congressional leaders for creating the problem.

Q: What has Congress done to hurt business travel?

A: Recent junkets by financial companies like AIG to exotic locations have created the perception that travel to legitimate conference sites like the Disney Parks, Las Vegas or Miami is excessive travel and they want Congress to tone down the rhetoric. While Washington DC continues to be a tourist magnet even as the economy falters, other major cities have seen drops of 30 to 40 percent. In Las Vegas alone more than 400 meetings have recently been cancelled. The travel industry wants some relief. They are asking the Treasury Department to clarify its rules on business travel, and they are asking members of Congress to tone down the criticism.

Q: They think Congress is responsible for meetings being cancelled?

A: Hospitality leaders are not asking for a handout. They say business meetings have such a bad name they've lost bookings worth $1.9 billion. They are simply asking Congress to criticize less. The CEO of a Minnesota Hotel Chain told his hometown Senator that an environment had been created in America where legitimate business travel is being questioned and cancelled and that translates into loss of jobs, taxes and travel related revenues in the midst of a recession.

Q: Anything else Congress can do to help?

A: With the concerns about H1N1 in North America, there are two Senators who are trying to rebuild America's image and bring foreign tourists back to America. Byron Dorgan and John Ensign have introduced the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 which hopes to encourage more travel to the United States by increasing Visa fees by $10 to pay for the advertising and marketing overseas.

For more on this topic, see the Star Tribune's Hospitality leaders ask that Congress criticize less and the Washington Post's Travel officials push back on business travel.

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