OpEd: Philadelphia's travel, tourism businesses can't weather this alone

Travel and tourism is an integral part of Philadelphia’s regional economy, encompassing 11,912 travel and tourism businesses and representing over 192,000 hospitality-related jobs across Philadelphia’s five-county region. 

The unprecedented public health crisis we’re facing right now has grounded travel to a halt and put the businesses and workers who rely on visitor spending in peril. Our local travel industry businesses contribute so much to our community, and as most are small businesses, they simply cannot weather this storm on their own.

All of our organizations — the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Philadelphia International Airport and the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association — exist in partnership to promote and support business and leisure travel nationally and globally. These visits fuel both the local economy and jobs. 

The 301 hotels across our region are in dire straits right now. Many of them have been forced to lay off or furlough workers, and some are simply closing until this crisis ends and business can return. This is devastating for the tens of thousands of bell staff, front desk staff, food service staff and housekeepers.

Tourism and hospitality has long stood as one of the region’s largest and fastest growing employment sectors—providing opportunities to work for thousands of our residents. Those opportunities, for the moment, are few and far between. 

As reported by U.S.Travel Association, Tourism Economics is estimating that the negative impact of this crisis will be six times greater than 9/11. 

Our broader industry has called on Washington to:

  • Develop $250 billion in grants to protect the travel workforce: keep workers employed, businesses solvent, and compensate for losses incurred in the interest of public health.
  • Establish loans to stabilize business operations: Provide travel-dependent businesses with zero interest, unsecured lines of credit and maximize the benefit of SBA loan programs by increasing loan limits above $2 million and guarantee percentages, waive loan fees, and provide forbearance on interest and loan payments through 2020.
  • Approve tax relief to mitigate losses and spur recovery: permit affected businesses to temporarily defer tax liability, delay or eliminate estimated quarterly tax payments and filing deadlines, and allow for an extended carryback of the Net Operating Loss (NOL) Deduction.
Congress must act today to ensure that the Philadelphia region’s travel industry and its workers can sustain themselves through this painful economic period. Failure to act now will most certainly impact our industry’s ability to quickly recover and put people back to work.  

Article originally published by Philadelphia Business Journal, written by the following contributors:

Julie Coker - President and CEO, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

Jeff Guaracino - President and CEO, Visit Philadelphia

John McNichol - President and CEO, Pennsylvania Convention Center

Chellie Cameron - CEO, Philadelphia Division of Aviation and Philadelphia International & Northeast Airports

Ed Grose - Executive Director, Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association