Travel industry leaders lobbying for tax relief

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Travel industry leaders are asking the Bush administration to consider a 100 percent tax deduction for all travel and related expenses to give the struggling industry a boost following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"To get America moving, we need to start moving Americans," Marilyn Carlson Nelson, head of Carlson Cos. Inc., told Commerce Secretary Donald Evans during a closed meeting Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

The travel industry employs 17 million people, is directly linked to one in 17 jobs in the United States and generates $99 billion in tax revenue, said Nelson, chairwoman and chief executive of the giant Minnetonka-based travel and hospitality company, which includes Radisson hotels and Carlson Wagonlit travel agencies.

Nelson described the presentation in a telephone interview following the meeting.

Citing figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council, Nelson said a 10 percent decrease in travel and tourism would result in a loss of 1.2 million jobs in the United States, while a 30 percent decrease would result in a loss of 2.4 million jobs.

Many of those cuts could be permanent, said Doug Cody, a spokesman for Carlson Cos., who estimated 100,000 of the nation’s 300,000 travel agent jobs are in jeopardy.

Nelson was among 15 industry leaders who met with Evans in what they described as a minisummit to discuss ways to rebuild public confidence in the safety of travel and help businesses hold on until demand for travel picks up.

Although the group earlier had talked about asking for about $5 billion in federal help, that request was not made, Nelson said. Any direct aid would have come on top of the $15 billion federal aid package already approved for airlines.

Jonathan Tisch, chief executive of Loews Hotels and chairman of the 60-member Travel Business Roundtable, said in a telephone interview that business at Loews Hotels is down 50 percent to 60 percent since the terrorist attacks.

"The pain is being felt through the industry," Tisch said. "If a person is not using a travel agent to book flights, they’re not on the airplane, they’re not staying in hotels, they’re not renting a car, they’re not eating in a restaurant and they’re not shopping in retail," he said.

"We felt it was a start," Jonathan Linen, vice chairman of American Express, said by telephone after the meeting. "Anything we can do in the industry to communicate the severity, we need to do right now. We’re on a burning platform here."

Evans and other administration representatives "were there to listen" and made no commitments during the meeting, Linen said.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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