Perhaps many people may not be aware, but travel is a $750 billion industry in the U.S., employing 7.7 million jobs directly and 17 million jobs indirectly, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), a national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry. USTA identifies that meetings and events are responsible for nearly 15% of all travel in the United States — and this doesn’t account for the dollars spent — and used to employ workers — in other related industries that support business events and travel.
Despite this, some U.S. politicians have been critical of certain segments of the travel industry, saying that corporate America should not host business travel programs in destinations that they deem as luxurious during a time when these businesses must request government assistance to manage business operations.
In response to government criticism of hosting corporate meetings and events during an ecnomic downturn, leaders from key organizations representing the travel, meetings and events industries issued the following statement regarding federal government efforts to curtail meetings, events and incentive travel programs among companies that have received emergency government lending (February 5, 2009):
“Americans expect Congress and the Obama Administration to responsibly and effectively oversee the use of taxpayer dollars to companies receiving emergency government lending. Americans also expect the business community and elected leaders to protect jobs and help the country rebound as quickly as possible from the current economic crisis.
“We are extremely concerned about the unintended consequences of unnecessarily restricting corporate meetings, events and incentive travel programs. Business-related travel generates 2.4 million American jobs, $244 billion in spending and $39 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state and local level. State and local governments rely on this revenue to fund basic government programs such as education, health care and unemployment insurance.
“At a time when the Department of Labor reports a loss of nearly 200,000 travel related jobs in 2008 and U.S. Commerce Department data predicts a loss of an additional 247,000 travel related jobs in 2009, elected officials and corporate America must take a thoughtful approach to managing the use of taxpayer dollars. Prudent organizations already have in-place travel and meeting management policies that ensure an effective return on investment for stakeholders. In the coming days, the travel, meetings and events industries will provide the business community with additional standards for meetings, events and incentives that demand transparency and accountability.
“Travelers are an important solution to the economic problems that ail our country. The travel community looks forward to working with America’s elected leaders and businesses to ensure that we keep America moving.”
The letter was signed by the following industry associations:
American Hotel and Lodging Association
Destination Marketing Association International
Meeting Professionals International
National Business Travel Association
Professional Convention Management Association
Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE)