While the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration mull over a package of tax relief and other initiatives designed to stimulate economic growth, the Travel Business Roundtable (TBR) is asking lawmakers to take immediate action to help the travel and tourism industry recover from the economic fallout from the September 11 tragedies.

Jonathan M. Tisch, TBR chairman and chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, oultined the industry’s situation in a letter sent to all Congressional members earlier this month.

"Hard data as well as anecdotal experience suggest that meetings are being postponed; all but critical corporate travel is being delayed; and individuals are canceling or postponing personal travel plans within the U.S. and abroad," wrote Tisch. "These disturbing trends are all occurring against the backdrop of an overall U.S. economy that is in decline."

In addition, Tisch said that travel and tourism activity-related federal, state, and local tax revenues, which were nearly $100 billion in 2000, stand to be significantly impacted as well. This could potentially hurt funding for stadiums, convention centers, and other projects funded by hotel room or hospitality surcharges.

If this revenue source declines significantly, it will be difficult to keep up with the debt on existing projects, and new civic projects could be postponed or outright abandoned. In addition to the stimulus package, TBR reaffirmed its call for the creation of a Presidential Advisory Council on Travel and Tourism that would be comprised of representatives from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and would work with the Executive Branch on tourism policymaking and implementation. The TBR also urged the federal government to partner with the travel and tourism industry to launch a substantive advertising and marketing campaign that promotes the United States as a travel destination.

According to Tisch, immediate action on both of these initiatives would further stimulate a much-needed recovery of the travel and tourism industry.

The letter reads:

"On behalf of the Travel Business Roundtable ("TBR"), I am writing to alert you to the crisis now confronting the U.S. travel and tourism industry and to outline several concrete steps that the Administration and Congress can take to help the industry recover from the crushing blow it received as a result of the 11th September terrorist attacks on our country.

"Comprised of more than 60 corporate, labor, and trade association members, the TBR is proud to represent the broad diversity of the U.S. travel and tourism industry. During the past decade, travel and tourism has emerged as one of our nation's most productive engines of economic growth. As of last January, more than 17 million Americans were employed in travel and tourism-related jobs, with an annual payroll of $159 billion. Travel and tourism was the first, second, or third largest industry in 28 states and the District of Columbia. And last year, travel and tourism generated an annual trade surplus of $17 billion as well as nearly $100 billion in tax revenues for Federal, state, and local governments. Unfortunately, the 11th September attacks have crippled our industry as public confidence in the safety of travel has been severely undermined, if not shattered. Hard data as well as anecdotal experience suggest that meetings are being postponed; all but critical corporate travel is being delayed; and individuals are canceling or postponing personal travel plans within the U.S. and abroad. These disturbing trends are all occurring against the backdrop of an overall U.S. economy that is in decline.

"Let me be even more specific: Since 11th September, hundreds of thousands of travel and tourism jobs have been lost across the country; major U.S. cities are already reporting tens of millions of dollars in tourism-related losses; airlines, having drastically reduced their flight schedules are filling less than 60% of their seats on most flights; hotels stand to lose more than $2 billion in room revenue; more than 25% of meetings and conventions scheduled to take place by the end of the year have been canceled; and travel agencies are reporting tens of millions of dollars in sales losses each day. To stop and reverse these alarming trends, we need your help and we need it now.

"As an immediate step, we urge you to speak out in as many forums as possible about the continued safety of travel and its importance to the U.S. economy. The message to the American people must be clear--to change our way of life is a capitulation to the terrorists. We applaud President Bush's recent public comments about the importance of travel as well as his decision to reopen Reagan National Airport. We also understand that Congress and the Administration are developing a package of tax relief and other initiatives designed to stimulate economic growth. As you review the range of options available to you, we hope you will consider the following proposals that will be particularly helpful to the U.S. travel and tourism industry in the near term as the industry tries to get back on its collective feet.

"On a longer-term basis, two additional steps should be taken. First, a top priority for the TBR has been the creation of a Presidential Advisory Council on Travel and Tourism. We envision the Advisory Council, whose members would hail from the public, private and non-profit sectors, as the fulcrum for tourism policymaking and implementation within the Executive Branch. The Advisory Council should be established as quickly as possible. Second, the Federal government, in partnership with the private sector, should help finance an advertising campaign that promotes the United States as a travel destination of choice for the foreign tourist and stimulates greater travel within the United States. The TBR strongly believes that such a campaign, if properly conceived, can pay substantial dividends in the form of increased tourism throughout our country.

"As more governors and mayors speak out about the damaging consequences of 11th September for state and local governments, both in terms of lost revenues and spiraling unemployment claims, one salient truth emerges: Travel and tourism is a nationwide industry whose enormous economic presence in all 435 Congressional Districts must not be ignored.

"Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me directly or call Chuck Merin, TBR's Washington representative, at 202/530-4829. Those of us at the TBR wish you every success as you undertake your important responsibilities during these difficult times."

For more information, go to www.tbr.org>www.tbr.org