State of the U.S. Travel Industry 2022: No Recovery Without Business Travel Recovery

U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow urges the business community to come back together: “It’s safe to meet.”

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Roger Dow speaks at press conference

Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, speaks Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy U.S. Travel Association)

The travel industry won’t fully recover until the meeting industry recovers, Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, said Wednesday during a “State of the Travel Industry 2022” address delivered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Meetings can — and are — being held safely, Dow added. “We urge the business community to come back together again. You can’t rebuild the economy on Zoom.”

In a press conference following the address, Dow referred to studies from sources including the Mayo Clinic, Harvard University, and Ohio State University that demonstrate that it’s safe to travel and meet in person given the right protocols. “You’re safer in a meeting room than in the local grocery store,” Dow said.

The association is working with Congress toward restoring some of the tax deductions for business travel that were eliminated in the 2017 Tax Bill, and to pass legislation to provide temporary tax credits and deductions through the Hospitality and Commerce Jobs Recovery Act, U.S. Travel Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said at the press conference.

During the 30-minute presentation, Dow enumerated travel industry losses, including $730 billion in travel spending and 2.1 million jobs, which represents 7 percent of all leisure and hospitality jobs. Although domestic travel has “largely recovered” to pre-pandemic levels, international visitation to the U.S. remains at 78 percent of its pre-pandemic levels, he said. Dow didn’t put a number on business travel losses but noted that sector is struggling and is not expected to fully recover until 2024.

The pandemic may have dealt the U.S. travel industry a very large setback, Dow said, but he expects it will come back stronger than ever. Dow and Emerson Barnes highlighted five key areas where the association is focusing its efforts, including:

Restoring lost travel industry jobs and strengthening the workforce. In addition to working with Congress to put higher caps on certain work visas, “we are taking a hard look at how our industry hires and how it recruits talent to understand why jobs are not being filled,” Dow said. That includes doing more to promote work/life balance and provide essential skills and experiences to workers, he said.

Advocating for a more seamless and secure travel experience, including the voluntary use of biometric identification at security checkpoints, and increasing staffing at Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agencies.

Supporting sustainability through advocating for the expansion of the nation’s electric vehicle infrastructure, the adoption of sustainable aviation fuels, and preserving the nation’s national parks.

Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the travel industry. The U.S. Travel Association launched a partnership at the end of 2021 with Tourism Diversity Matters, and is planning an upcoming joint event.

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.