With none other than President George W. Bush as spokesperson, a new travel promotion campaign sponsored by the Travel Industry Association kicked off this week. Planned to run through December, the ad blitz is just one of the many efforts industry organizations are doing to get the public traveling again.

Citing concerns that more than 1 million people in the U.S. travel and tourism industry could lose their jobs if business doesn’t regain some momentum, CEOs from major airlines, hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, travel management companies, and other segments of the industry also are lobbying hard to spur government action to stimulate travel and tourism. Dozens of meetings were held during the fall between industry leaders representing the Travel Business Roundtable and members of Congress, all aimed at finding ways to get the industry back in gear.

"The best way to help the travel and tourism industry and the 18 million people it employs is to get people traveling," says Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels and chairman of the TBR. "To that end, we are offering policymakers an array of options to address three key areas of concern: the well-being of our workers who have lost or will lose their jobs; ways to encourage the resumption of travel; and the creation of greater liquidity for employers and employees."

Among the proposals were a $500 tax credit for individuals and up to $1,000 for couples filing joint returns for any kind of travel-related expenses from the time legislation is passed through December 31, 2001. This would include tax breaks on airline, cruise, train or bus tickets, hotel accommodations, and rental cars for any travel originating in the U.S. Other proposals were for some kind of relief for laid-off tourism workers, and a call for the creation of a Presidential Advisory Council on Travel and Tourism. The council would be comprised of representatives from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and would work with the Executive Branch on tourism policymaking and implementation, according to TBR.

In late October, the Professional Conference management Association sent a letter supporting the "Travel America now Act of 2001" to U.S. senators and Cliff Stearns, Subcommittee Chair, Commerce, Trade and Consumer Affairs, U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. "The "Travel America Now Act of 2001 does not 'bail out' any particular business but would temporarily restore the complete deductibility of business meals and entertainment expenses," PCMA said in the letter. "It would also provide an incentive for Americans to travel again, and to do it now."

While hopes were high for a pre-Thanksgiving passage of some travel initiatives, it didn’t happen. The House did pass an economic stimulus bill, but the Senate is focusing on another proposal by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), which does not include travel incentives. Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have asked Baucus and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to "include in the economic stimulus package two key proposals that will help stimulate travel and tourism," namely, the personal travel tax credit and the temporary reinstatement of the business meals and entertainment tax deduction to 100 percent.

Travel and tourism, unlike other industries, is an important business segment in all 435 congressional districts and all 50 states. It also constitutes the top three industries in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

Among the travel and tourism proposals currently before Congress are:

H.R.2400 : To provide job creation and assistance, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep McHugh, John M.- Latest Major Action: 9/28/2001 Referred to House subcommittee
Committees: House Education and the Workforce; House Ways and Means; House Judiciary; House Agriculture; House Financial Services

H.R.3041 : To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax and other incentives to maintain a vibrant travel and tourism industry, to keep working people working, and to stimulate economic growth, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Shadegg, John B.- Latest Major Action: 10/4/2001 Referred to House committee
Committees: House Ways and Means

H.R.3140 : To provide tax and other incentives to maintain a vibrant travel and tourism industry, to keep working people working, and to stimulate economic growth, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Kennedy, Patrick J.- Latest Major Action: 10/29/2001 Referred to House subcommittee
Committees: House Ways and Means; House Energy and Commerce; House Small Business; House Education and the Workforce

H.R.3157 : To authorize the Secretary of Commerce to establish a Travel and Tourism Promotion Bureau.
Sponsor: Rep Underwood, Robert A.- Latest Major Action: 10/29/2001 Referred to House subcommittee
Committees: House Energy and Commerce

H.R.3321 : To authorize the Secretary of Commerce to make grants to States for advertising that stimulates economic activity by promoting travel and tourism.
Sponsor: Rep Foley, Mark- Latest Major Action: 11/16/2001 Referred to House committee
Committees: House Energy and Commerce

S.1500 : A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax and other incentives to maintain a vibrant travel and tourism industry, to keep working people working, and to stimulate economic growth, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Kyl, Jon- Latest Major Action: 10/4/2001 Referred to Senate committee
Committees: Senate Finance

S.1505 : A bill to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to establish a Travel and Tourism Promotion Bureau.
Sponsor: Sen Boxer, Barbara- Latest Major Action: 10/4/2001 Referred to Senate committee
Committees: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation

S.1583 : A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a refundable tax credit for recreational travel costs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Nelson, Bill- Latest Major Action: 10/25/2001 Referred to Senate committee
Committees: Senate Finance

H.R.2945 : To authorize the Secretary of Transportation to make grants to travel agencies, car rental companies, and other business concerns in the ancillary airline industry to provide compensation for losses incurred as a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Sponsor: Rep Hastings, Alcee L.- Latest Major Action: 11/2/2001 Referred to House subcommittee
Committees: House Transportation and Infrastructure; House Financial Services; House Energy and Commerce

S.1578 : A bill to preserve the continued viability of the United States travel industry.
Sponsor: Sen Dorgan, Byron L.- Latest Major Action: 10/25/2001 Referred to Senate committee
Committees: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

For more information on proposed or pending legislation, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/.