Politics of Travel Help Needed on Legislative Push, Grandma Jim’s Rollercoaster

I am pondering how to describe the last two weeks and it is getting late – so here you go. It was a dark and stormy Wednesday and I was looking forward to a long weekend away from DC spent at a good friend’s (since 1st grade) wedding. But I was also growing flummoxed on how to continue answer the questions from you all on when and how the Biden Administration was going to re-open the U.S. borders to international travel – I was running out of ideas on what arguments to next push.  Then a message came and things got crazy.

DEARLY BELOVED: That Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion’s Chair U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) requested GBTA’s Suzanne Neufang speak at the Tuesday hearing titled “Legislative Solutions to Revive Travel and Tourism and Create Jobs”.  We had 36 hours to conceive and draft our written testimony. You can view her 5 minute opening here.

GBTA highlighted the need for international companies to know that it is safe to come to the U.S. and advocated for the Visit America program. We also pointed to the need to streamline visas to the country as well as passport services, which are taking months rather than weeks to process in the current pandemic climate. She took several questions from the Senators ranging on a variety of topics and ideas. You can read the written testimony of GBTA, American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and U.S. Travel Association (USTA) and watch the 90 minute hearing on the Committee Homepage.

The Tuesday hearing was a truly bi-partisan affair of Senators asking questions and seeking ways to support the travel industry. GBTA was very pleased to represent the business travel community in this important hearing. It has set the stage for important language to be added to any moving legislation. Please continue reading and find out how you can help.

LOOK UP IN THE SKY, IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE!: On Monday morning, the Biden Administration FINALLY relaxed air restrictions into the U.S. Beginning in early November, all adult foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. will be required to be fully vaccinated before boarding their flight. This is in addition to the current requirement that travelers show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure to the U.S.

Once the vaccination requirement is put in place, the White House will ease all the country-specific restrictions on international travel that have prevented noncitizens who have been in the United Kingdom, European Union, China, India, Iran, Republic of Ireland, Brazil or South Africa in the prior 14 days from entering the U.S.

This is a really big win for the travel industry. It reminded me something Grandma Jim always stressed – continue to make logical, cohesive arguments from different angles and you will eventually break through and get the outcome you seek. The ride kind of makes me feel like Superman!

As stated earlier, the date for lifting the restrictions hasn’t been identified beyond early November. As luck would have it, GBTA is hosting a gathering in Orlando Florida in mid-November.  Everyone should come and celebrate – safely, masked up and socially distanced!

ALL ENCOMPASSING TRIP: According to Politico reporting, air carriers are seeing bookings increase since the Biden administration announcement. German airline Lufthansa said it has seen a 40 percent increase in bookings for travel between Europe and the U.S. Other airlines, such as Swiss and British Airways, have seen similar increases — if not more, says Airline Weekly.

PLEA TO U.S. GBTA MEMBERS: As we wrap this edition up, I know I haven’t provided an update on the U.S. Congress debate of Infrastructure spending. Things are too fluid at this point to speculate and the debates continue. That said, We Are Pushing For Language To Be Included In A Final Package. Please contact your Representative and Senators through the GBTA Advocacy Page and ask them to co-sponsor the bi-partisan Hospitality & Commerce Job Recovery Act introduced by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Kevin Cramer. This legislation would support the convention and trade show industries by establishing a tax credit to offset the cost of attending or hosting a convention, business meeting or trade show in the U.S. through 2024, It would restore the Entertainment Business Expense Deduction by repealing the changes made by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and would also provide a tax credit for qualified domestic travel expenses of up to $1,500 for many Americans. The stimulus measures included will be critical to the recovery of the travel industry, the health of which is central to the overall U.S. economy.

IN CLOSING: I told you it has been a week and that is leaving out a dinner with a couple of GBTA members visiting the HQ to complete their GLP! Writing this all reminds me what a great industry this is. I look forward to a fantastic end of the year with you!

Shane Downey
Vice President, Government & Community Relations
[email protected]
(O) 703 236-1131
(C) 703 459-7425

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