Travel industry pushes for $150 billion in aid as coronavirus cripples business

Key Points
  • The U.S. travel and tourism industry is seeking $150 billion in relief as the coronavirus cripples business.
  • The industry wants the White House to create a travel workforce stabilization fund, provide an emergency liquidity facility for travel businesses and offer loans from the Small Business Administration.
  • Industry lobbyists estimate decreased travel due to the coronavirus could wipe out $355 billion in total travel spending.
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, listens while Mark Hoplamazian, president and chief executive officer of Hyatt Hotels Corp., right, speaks during a meeting with tourism industry executives at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Kevin Dietsch | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.S. travel and tourism industry is seeking $150 billion in relief to help grapple with the coronavirus pandemic that has ground travel to a halt.

Lobbying groups representing the country's travel and tourism industry met at the White House on Tuesday with President Donald Trump and other officials to discuss the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

In the meeting, Trump "assured the industry leaders that he understands the sacrifices they are all making and pledged that this administration would be there for them in the days, weeks and months ahead," a White House spokesperson said in a statement. 

The meeting included the heads of the U.S. Travel Association and American Hotel and Lodging Association, which represents companies including Carnival, Walt Disney, Expedia, Hilton and MGM International.

The groups urged the administration to take a number of measures to help the ailing industry. They include establishing a travel workforce stabilization fund, providing an emergency liquidity facility for travel businesses and support to small businesses and their employees through the Small Business Administration.

In the meeting, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow presented an analysis that projects decreased travel due to coronavirus could wipe out $355 billion in total travel spending, including transportation, lodging, retail, attractions and restaurants. The economic pain, he argued, could be six times that of 9/11.

"The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we've seen before, including September 11 and the great recession of 2008 combined," American Hotel & Lodging Association CEO Chip Rogers said in a statement.  

The travel industry joins others, including airlines, asking the government for help in making it through the disruption. The U.S. airline industry confirmed Monday that it is seeking government assistance of more than $50 billion, including a mix of direct aid and loan guarantees. Boeing has also confirmed it is in talks with the government about aid. 

The request comes as the White House is putting together a stimulus package worth anywhere from $850 billion to over $1 trillion to battle the economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has made clear his intent to protect certain industries. In a press conference earlier Tuesday he noted that the challenges facing the travel industry are not its fault. 

In hopes of containing the pandemic, the Trump administration has instituted a broad ban on foreign visitors from 26 European countries, which it later expanded to the U.K. and Ireland.

Still, any bailout of the travel industry may be controversial. Trump himself is a hotelier. 

Democrats including Sen. Elizabeth Warren have made clear they will demand concessions from any big business accepting federal aid. She said Tuesday such concessions would include an agreement to permanently ban stock buyback and maintain employee payroll. 

How cruise lines are prepping for the coronavirus outbreak