USTA: COVID-19 will cost U.S. travel 4.6M jobs before May

Front desk hotel employee on the phone
The U.S. Travel Association now predicts the U.S. travel sector could lose 4.6 million jobs by the end of April. Photo credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / DragonImages

The U.S. Travel Association yesterday forecast 4.6 million jobs will disappear from the travel sector by the end of April, revising a previous timeline.

The update came a day after the USTA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and other industry CEOs met with President Donald Trump to discuss a $250 billion relief package for the industry. At that time, it had predicted the industry would lose 4.6 million jobs and $355 billion this year. The USTA now predicts those jobs, as well as $202 billion in direct travel spending, will disappear before May.

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"The news we have for policymakers and the public is very challenging: the 15.8 million American jobs supported by travel are directly in the crosshairs of the health crisis, and the only thing that's going to protect them is aggressive financial relief right now," USTA President/CEO Roger Dow said in a statement.

"There are countless stories of travel businesses—83 percent of which are small businesses—working hard to do right by their workers. But the cold reality is they can't support their employees if they don't have any customers, and they don't have any customers because of the actions needed to halt the spread of coronavirus. Millions of Americans shouldn't have to lose their jobs by acting in the interest of public health," Dow said.

"We're witnessing the shutdown of travel. The economic effects of that are already disastrous, but could become worse and permanent unless the government acts now," he stressed.

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On March 17, the AH&LA said one million direct hotel jobs had either been eliminated or will be eliminated in the next few weeks. Given the forecasted occupancy drop, it said 3.9 million jobs could be lost over the full year.

“If you go back just three weeks ago, most of the industry was looking around and happy to see record-high occupancy rates, record-high employment rates, and in a matter of three weeks, we're now faced with the reality that half the hotels in the United States may close during this year and that the occupancy rate drops to somewhere in the 30 to 35 percent [range] for the entire year,” said Rogers on a call with the media after meeting with Trump.