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  • Chris Schutte

Travel Association Execs Urge Corps. to Lift Business Travel Restrictions

Executives from three travel industry associations during a session taped on Oct. 12 for Best Western's virtual annual convention Wednesday urged both corporations and governments to lift restrictions and/or to provide assistance to industry suppliers in order to help travel further down the road to recovery.

Citing drive-to leisure business coming back, and improving figures for travel to U.S. national parks and in some Western states, American Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO Chip Rogers said that travel is "like a coiled spring, it's ready to go." He credited the industry getting behind enhanced health and safety procedures, like his organization's Safe Stay protocols, with helping to assure people that it is "now safer to be in a Best Western property than in a grocery store."

But what worries him most is business travel, "only because so many companies have put in do-not-travel policies," he said. "We have to work together to get the companies to understand that it's safe, and they need to get people back on the road to make sure they get their market share and not lose to their competitors and bring corporate travel back."

Asian American Hotel Owners Association president and CEO Cecil Staton echoed Rogers' plea, adding that after the government "shut down travel so quickly," he hopes "they will see the need to also encourage travel once again. At some point, we are going to have to talk about tax credits for businesses to encourage travel and get people back on the road," he said, acknowledging that many will feel a significant amount of discomfort until a vaccine is widely available. "But the reality is you can travel safely if you follow the protocols … and, long-term, we absolutely have to get business travel going again."

Another issue of concern to the executives is that of liability. "We need liability protection," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. "I don't want anybody to sue me or Best Western or to say they got Covid at my property. We have to protect the owners from that as well."

All three organizations, among other associations and companies, have been relentlessly lobbying the U.S. Congress for additional stimulus and aid for the hospitality industry during the coronavirus crisis, and each executive made their pleas to Best Western owners listening in to the roundtable.

"Communicating to members of Congress is the single best thing you can do, especially as all House members are up for reelection," Rogers said. "You have to be direct. Call and say, 'Look, my business is failing. If you don't do anything, why would I vote for you or encourage my employees to?' Business is at risk. Be polite, but direct."

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