A congresswoman from the Sunshine State was able to get her proposal to have the U.S. Commerce Department report on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the travel and tourism industries through the U.S. House.

At the end of August, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., brought out the “Protecting Tourism in the United States Act” with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., as the cosponsor.

“Our nation is facing one of the gravest health and economic emergencies in more than 100 years. The coronavirus pandemic has had a deep impact on every aspect of American life, and bold action is required to address the health emergency, mitigate the economic damage and provide for a strong recovery,” Castor said when she brought out the bill. “Our nation’s response must put workers and families first: their health, their wages and their wellbeing, especially in the hard-hit tourism and hospitality industry. Here in Florida, hotels, motels, restaurants, and attractions – and all who are tied to those jobs – are reeling. We need to quality the harm and develop an action plan for recovery.

“This comprehensive study will help us get the data we need for near-term action. In the long run, it will help us understand the impact the pandemic has wreaked on travel and tourism for future planning. I’m pleased to work on this bipartisan bill with my colleague, Rep. Fred Upton. We hear the pain and concerns of our neighbors and are acting to bring much-needed solutions to bolster this bedrock economic engine for Florida and the nation,” Castor added.

“Michigan’s tourism industry generates nearly $26 billion a year – and our state’s tourism, like many, has been greatly impacted by the worst public health crisis in a century,” Upton said. “Our restaurants, hotels, and mom-and-pop shops that make up our tourism industry have been hit hard. As Congress discusses COVID-19 emergency relief packages, it’s important for this study to be done so we have the full picture and can provide effective solutions to support tourism and the industry’s jobs.”

The bill had the support of some leading members of the business community.

“The Protecting Tourism in the United States Act is an important step for the long-term health not just of the American travel sector, but of the overall U.S. economy and workforce,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs and policy of the U.S. Travel Association.  “It is crucial to understand that there will not be a broader national economic and jobs recovery unless travel and tourism survives and is put on solid footing toward reopening.

“Travel supported employment for one in 10 Americans pre-pandemic, and more than a third of those jobs have disappeared since March—making it by far the industry hardest hit by the fallout of the pandemic. This bill will greatly help in providing a full and accurate diagnosis of the economic damage caused by the health crisis, and enable leaders to correctly prioritize the policy measures that will be most effective in speeding the restoration of jobs and economic activity,” she added.

The bill “directs the Department of Commerce to  complete a study on the effects of the COVID–19 pandemic on the travel and tourism industry, including various segments – domestic, international, leisure, business, conventions, meetings, and events” and “directs the Department of Commerce to complete an interim study to get data for action soon after the bill is enacted.”

This week, Castor was able to get her proposal included in U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas’, D-Calf., “Pandemic Effects on Home Safety and Tourism Act” which cleared the House on a voice vote on Tuesday.

“The bedrock tourism, travel and hospitality industries here in Tampa Bay and our neighbors who rely on those jobs need help from the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the House has passed my bipartisan legislation to help alleviate the burden on our local workers and small businesses, and gauge the true impact of this crisis on our economy,” Castor said. “By directing the Department of Commerce to study the long term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, we can create a plan to help these industries and workers bounce back and avoid the worst impacts in future emergencies. This comprehensive study will help us get the data we need for near-term action to serve those in the hard-hit tourism, travel and hospitality industries. And, in the long run, this study will help us understand the impact the pandemic has wreaked on travel, tourism and hospitality for future planning.

“We must continue to put workers, families and small businesses first as we respond to the pandemic. The wellbeing of so many of our neighbors is in danger and I’m grateful that we can come together in a bipartisan manner to develop an action plan and respond to the pain and concerns of so many. Thank you to my colleague Rep. Fred Upton for being my partner in this legislation. I anticipate the Senate passing its companion bill later this week, and urge the president to sign it into law right away,” Castor continued.


Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

Kevin Derby
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