Travel and Tourism-Focused Legislative Package Would Help Get Nevada’s Economy Back on Track Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Challenges
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) applauded the news that their Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act of 2021 advanced through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today with strong bipartisan support. This bipartisan legislative package is focused on restoring the nation’s tourism industry in the face of ongoing challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Rosen is the Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, and Senator Wicker is the Ranking Member of the full Senate Commerce Committee. The travel and tourism-focused omnibus is the culmination of months of work by Senator Rosen after holding nearly half a dozen subcommittee hearings with key tourism stakeholders and playing a lead role in bringing together a bipartisan group of Senators and building consensus on a final package.
“Restoring the travel and tourism industry to its full potential is a top priority, and I’m glad to see our legislative package has passed the Senate Commerce Committee with strong bipartisan support,” said Senator Rosen. “Over the past two years, tourism has been hit hard in Nevada and across the country because of COVID-19. This bipartisan package will take important steps to enhance air travel health and safety, enact a comprehensive study on the pandemic’s impact on the industry, and better coordinate our national travel and tourism strategy across federal agencies. I will continue working across the aisle to ensure the full Senate passes this legislation quickly to support our businesses and bring back good-paying jobs.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the travel and tourism industry and, consequently, led to severe impacts on our economy,” said Senator Wicker. “There was nearly $500 billion in lost travel spending, resulting in $64 billion in missed federal, state, and local tax revenue since the beginning of March. It may take years to restore travel and tourism to its pre-pandemic levels. However, this legislation would help protect the travel and tourism industries from the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. I thank my colleagues in joining me to help this sector heal and prosper once again.”
Tourism is one of Nevada’s key industries and employs nearly 350,000 Nevadans. Although Nevada’s economy is beginning to recover and experiencing strong growth, the state unemployment rate remains the worst in the country. In the Las Vegas area, visitor volume is still down 7.6% and hotel room occupancy is down 8.4% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Nationwide, unemployment in the leisure and hospitality industry, covering the bulk of tourism businesses and workers, is nearly twice the national average.
Senators Wicker and Rosen introduced the legislation with a large group of bipartisan co-sponsors, including Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Rick Scott (R-FL).
Key legislation included in the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act of 2021:
- The Visit America Act (S.1947) authorizes the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and for the first time ever creates an assistant secretary position within the Department of Commerce focused exclusively on bolstering America’s travel and tourism industry and coordinating a strategy across multiple federal agencies by establishing annual goals and recommendations.
- The Protecting Tourism in the US Act (S. 115) directs the Department of Commerce to study the effects of COVID-19 on travel and tourism, and make policy recommendations.
- The Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act (S. 82) establishes a temporary joint task force among the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services to address the unique impact of COVID-19 on air travel both during and after the pandemic. The Joint Task Force will develop recommended requirements, plans, and guidelines to address the health, safety, security, and logistical issues relating to air travel during the pandemic, the return to full operations at airports, and the increased levels of passenger air travel likely to occur after the pandemic. The bill also establishes a Joint Federal Advisory Committee to advise the Joint Task Force.
- The Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act (S. 343) directs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct a feasibility study on canines to screen airport travelers for COVID-19.
- The One-Stop Pilot Program Act of 2021 establishes a TSA pilot program to securely make TSA baggage screening more efficient for passengers.
Senator Rosen’s Travel Optimization by Updating and Revitalizing Infrastructure to Support Mobilization (TOURISM) Act, originally part of this package, was signed into law last month as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This bipartisan legislation requires the National Travel and Tourism Infrastructure Strategic Plan to be updated to include an immediate-term and long-term strategy for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other agencies to use infrastructure investments to revive the travel and tourism industries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation advanced today also included an amendment from Senator Rosen, adopted unanimously, requiring the Department of Commerce to collect and publish data on domestic travel and tourism trends in the United States.