The travel industry is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as millions of people have lost their travel-related jobs. Now, Congress is debating a bill that would provide thousands of dollars in travel tax credits to families.
"This could be used for airfare, for hotel stays, for meals and attractions within a certain distance away from home, let's say." says Tori Emerson Barnes with the U.S. Travel Association.
Modeled after the homebuyer tax credit that was created in the recession of 2008, Barnes says, if passed, this financial incentive would be crucial toward putting the travel industry and the millions of people it employs back to work.
"Post 9/11, it took about 18 months for the travel industry to come back. From an economic standpoint, this is nine times worse than 9/11, so really what we have to do is get people moving again to get the economy back," says Barnes.
The travel tax credit would pay back families 50% of their travel expenses up to $4,000. The refund would be for travel expenses made between the time of the bill's enactment and the end of 2021.
"We know that we need to get people traveling again in a health and safe way so we think that establishing an individual travel tax credit that can help motivate folks and push them a little bit into the market will go a long way. We’ve been working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and administration," says Barnes.
Chris Gahl of Visit Indy says the travel tax credit would be huge for businesses in Indianapolis.
"The tourism eco-system is made up of lots of different businesses. Most consumers would think of hotels, airlines, museums, restaurants and bars. But there are also companies that clean linens for the hotels, flower companies," says Gahl.
As for easing travelers concerns amid COVID-19, Gahl says, "From Indiana’s perspective, from the capital of Indianapolis, we have taken great strides in putting people first and foremost and the health of our residents and subsequently our visitors."
"We all believe that there needs to be appropriate sanitation, there needs to be appropriate barriers in place and we support the use of masks. You know, we think a phased and layered approach is critical to the health and safety of the American public but we don’t think you have to pick between the public health or the economic health of the country," says Barnes.
In the Indianapolis area, Visit Indy says more than 83,000 people rely on tourism for their jobs.
"This goes well beyond the glossiness of hotels and restaurants and wanting a getaway. There's real people, real Americans who are working and depending on tourism for a paycheck," says Gahl.
The US Travel Association hopes Congress votes on the bill by early August.