Springtime and travel go hand-in-hand, with the season usually bringing a boom for the industry as spring-breakers book trips, businesses plan travel and conferences, and families map out their summer vacation plans. But as the calendar pages flip this year, the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to disrupt industries across the travel, entertainment and hospitality sectors, including gaming.
The travel industry lost nearly $500 billion last year, resulting in $64 billion lost in federal, state and local tax revenue. The travel-reliant gaming industry saw a 31 percent drop in annual revenue as casino operating days decreased by 27 percent due to pandemic-driven casino closures and capacity restrictions.
These figures underscore the need for additional action at the federal level to accelerate this important and disproportionately impacted segment of our economy.
We’ve been encouraged by progress on this front, and by Congress’ commitment to supplement broader Covid-19 relief efforts and jump-start the travel and tourism industries.
U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and U.S. Reps. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and Darin Lahood (R-Ill.) recently unveiled the Hospitality and Commerce Jobs Recovery Act (HCJRA), a bipartisan, bicameral bill to incentivize Americans to travel again.
In February, the Senate voted on a budgetary amendment supporting funding for the hospitality industry, including conventions, trade shows, entertainment, tourism and travel, echoing the priorities of the HCJRA. Although the amendment was not binding, it’s a direct statement from Congress that they are prioritizing these industries for federal funding and is a positive sign that elements of the HCJRA will likely be considered for future relief packages.
The Senate’s creation of a new subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion also shows the desire of senators to support and expand travel in the U.S. This news is even brighter for the gaming industry, with Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) serving as committee chair and Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) serving as ranking member. Senators from gaming states leading this subcommittee will ensure that our priorities are top of mind as they consider legislation.
On the House side, the recent renewal of the Congressional Gaming Caucus—with more than 30 bipartisan members—is a positive indicator that our industry’s interests will be represented in many congressional committees as Congress deliberates how to get our economy moving again.
As Congress continues to support ways to accelerate the recovery of our travel and tourism industries at the federal level and as the nationwide vaccine rollout continues, there are reasons to be optimistic for the resurgence of travel in 2021.
The gaming industry is well-positioned to ensure that our priorities are addressed in these recovery efforts, and the American Gaming Association will continue to work with our partners in the tourism industry and our champions on Capitol Hill to continue this momentum as gaming makes its comeback.