March 20th, 2020


Unprecedented Meeting Addresses Actions to Safeguard Member Small Businesses

Washington, DC (March 19, 2020) – The travel and tourism industry is trending to be one of the hardest hit industries as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The industry will be seeing the effects of this pandemic for months, if not years, to come. Today, a group of leaders from 11 travel and tourism associations representing various parts of the industry convened in person and by phone in Washington, DC to discuss the key issues facing the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure that small businesses are not overlooked as government relief is addressed. The Department of Commerce was also a part of the discussion.

The industry leaders stressed the vital and urgent need of the Federal Government to take action that is swift, clear in its direction, and provides grants, favorable loans, and other relief mechanisms to address the market failure small businesses face within the travel and tourism industry.

According to a recent U.S. Travel analysis, COVID-19 and the associated travel restrictions will result in an $809 billion hit on the United States economy and a loss of 4.6 million travel-related American jobs this year, nearly doubling the unemployment rate in the US. Additionally, total spending on travel in the United States, which includes transportation, lodging, retail, attractions, and restaurants, is expected to fall by $355 billion. What is most troubling is that this projected $355 billion is a 31 percent decrease from last year and is six times greater than the impact of 9/11.


The group of industry leaders included:

  • American Bus Association (ABA), Peter Pantuso, President and Chief Executive Officer,
  • Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), Shannon Stowell, CEO, and Chun Wright, Legal Counsel
  • American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), Zane Kerby, President and Chief Executive Officer and Evan Beck, Executive Vice President
  • Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Brian Beall, Vice President, Government Affairs
  • International Association of Tour Directors & Guides (IATDG), Von Harden, Chief Executive Officer, and Karen Yates, Community Director
  • International Inbound Travel Association (IITA), Lisa Simon, Executive Director and Steve Richard, Consultant
  • International Motorcoach Group (IMG), Bronwyn Wilson, President
  • National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations USA (NFTGA), Ellen Malasky, President
  • National Tour Association (NTA), Catherine Prather, CTP, President 
  • Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA), Carylann Assante, Chief Executive Officer, and Erik Hansen, Vice President of Government Relations
  • United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), Terry Dale, President and Chief Executive Officer

The industry leaders discussed ways to achieve congressional economic relief, the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, and the overall impact of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industry. They also discussed how the industry can work together in the coming months to help overcome the lasting effects of this pandemic.


Specific actions agreed by the group include:

  • Continue to collaborate on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic relief.
  • Engage lawmakers on Capitol Hill and Executive Branch Officials as relief negotiations continue to ensure our industry remains a part of the conversation.
  • Advocate for any and all relief measures to help keep businesses’ doors open.
  • Rely on one another and the spirit of the resilient travel and tourism sector navigate this unprecedented time.


Bronwyn Wilson, IMG: “At no time have we experienced an event that has impacted us all to such a degree and it is now that we need to work together and ensure that government relief is made available to all segments of the travel industry including the motorcoach industry.”

Peter Pantuso, ABA: “Motorcoach operators, tour operators, destinations, and other tourism-related organizations (including local and regional government partners), along with product and service suppliers, all support the travel industry and are being significantly hit by the COVID-19. Collectively, the motorcoach, tour and travel industries provide nearly 2 million jobs and create more than $236 billion in economic impact nationwide.  These are industries dominated by small entrepreneurial businesses, many of which are multigenerational family businesses. Unlike larger corporate interests, these companies cannot withstand such a significant economic downturn.”

Shannon Stowell, ATTA: “Small and medium size travel businesses comprise the long tail of travel. As a group, they drive significant economic impact in the US but due to their relatively small sizes don't have deep pockets to weather this unprecedented situation.  Tour operators, lodges, guides and travel agents need support in this critically dangerous financial environment.”

Brian Beall, CLIA: “These are unprecedented times for the world—and its impacts are far reaching. This is especially true for the tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihoods. We know that for every 1% drop in cruising from the United States, up to 2,000 jobs can be lost. We are committed to seeing our community through this crisis. This is a resilient community, and we are confident that cruising will be an important contributor to the economic recovery, given that every 30 cruisers from U.S. ports creates one U.S. job.”

Lisa Simon, International Inbound Travel Association:  “IITA’s immediate priorities include funding for inbound tour operators and the small businesses that make up the inbound travel industry – restaurants, hotels, attractions, restaurants, transportation companies and other destination marketing organizations - to ensure they are able to weather the storm and be prepared when this crisis passes and travel rebounds, as we know it will. We propose grants and no interest loans be immediately available and postponing government fees and taxes for inbound travel organizations. Working collaboratively with the industry’s leading travel associations to sustain our industry strengthens our collective voice and emphasized the criticality of the travel industry to the nation’s economy.”

Catherine Prather, NTA: “NTA tour operators are living their worst nightmare. It’s devastating to hear their stories, because these entrepreneurs and small business owners have dedicated their livelihoods to creating amazing, memorable experiences for people of all ages. They are receiving one cancellation after another from travelers who are angry, stressed, and scared, and these tour operators are not only bearing the brunt of this, many are digging into their pockets to provide refunds—with no reimbursement in sight from many vendors. Our nation’s tour companies consistently drive business to hotels, restaurants, theme parks, and museums, and their travelers fly aboard planes and ride on motorcoaches. They are the backbone of the travel industry, and as their business dries up, the industry breaks down along with them.”

Carylann Assante, SYTA and SYTA Youth Foundation: “Student and youth travel is an integral part of the travel and tourism industry, representing 20% of the total North American Market with annual spending of $10 billion a year. With the 1.5 million student travelers effectively ceasing all travel, this is a devastating impact on the small business owners, tour directors, tour guides and all those essential to providing these valuable travel experiences.”

Terry Dale, USTOA: “Unprecedented times call for urgent action and our industry as a whole needs to be proactive to ensure the business health of each of our members, so many of whom are small businesses, and their employees stays front and center as government relief programs are developed and announced. The combined voices from each of these industry partners and their collective memberships will make a powerful impact to urge government officials to act fast. We are separate, yet united.”