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Posted 22 Oct 2001   For week ended October 19, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 16Oct01

By Kent Larsen

Marriott Asks Congress for Travel Tax Credit

WASHINGTON, DC -- Marriott International CEO and LDS Church member Bill Marriott Jr. testified before the Senate Commerce Committee's Tourism Subcommittee on Friday that the travel industry needs support after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Marriott argued not for direct federal assistance to his or any other company, but rather for a tax credit that would induce travelers to travel again.

When the public abruptly stopped traveling following September 11th, hotels and other travel services were hit hard by the sudden drop in demand. Marriott was hit harder than most. The company lost a hotel in the collapse of the World Trade Center, lost two managers who were killed in the buildings, and suffered major damage to a second hotel nearby. Then, reservations at Marriott hotels dropped by 94% following the attacks. While reservations have rebounded some, Marriott is still seeing 25% fewer reservations than this time a year ago, and he testified that both his hotel rates and occupancy are 25% below last year's levels. Marriott International operates more than 2,200 hotels worldwide under the Marriott, Ramada, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Courtyard, and five other brand names.

The rest of the hotel industry was hit just as badly. Marriott estimated that half the 2 million hotel workers in the U.S. have either been laid off or had their hours cut to part-time schedules. "Many hotels will not make their debt service payment," Marriott told the committee, "We don't know how we're going to get through the next few months."

Marriott testified in support of the Travel America Now Act of 2001, sponsored by Arizona Republican Senator John Kyl and Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, which would give U.S. taxpayers traveling before year's end a tax credit of up to $500 ($1,000 for couples filing jointly). "We are not asking for a bailout," Marriott said. "I know that many members of Congress do not like tax credits, but they can be effective when used prudently and cautiously."

Marriott was joined in his testimony by fellow hotel executives Marilyn Carlson Nelson, CEO of Carlson Companies, Inc. of Minneapolis, which operates 540 hotels and Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Corp.'s hotel division and head of the Travel Business Roundtable. The committee also heard from Washington DC Mayor Anthony Williams, who estimated the capital would lose 24,000 jobs and $750 million in the next six months from the travel industry downturn, and from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who stressed that the New York City economy, heavily dependant on tourism, and the upstate New York economy will both suffer from a lack of visitors. "Very few people are coming," Clinton testified.

But the case for the bill, which is given little chance for passage, was hurt by the absence of Stephen Bollenbach, CEO of Hilton Hotels Corp. Bollenbach declined to attend a meeting with Commerce Secretary Don Evans last month that Marriott, Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Tisch attended and he opposes any kind of federal assistance, "He thinks it is inappropriate to ask for financial assistance," said Hilton spokeswoman Kathy Shepard on Friday. "We don't need the money. Hotels are not going to be closing. We're still going to survive."

But Marriott's testimony emphasized that the attacks couldn't have come at a worse time, "September and October are the best months for business and convention travel. We have lost all of the profit that these months usually provide." And John Wilhelm, president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union emphasized that the employees are hit hardest of all, "This is not just a New York or Washington, D.C. problem," Wilhelm said.


Marriott urges passage of travel tax credit
Business Week (Reuters) 12Oct01 B2

Tourism execs make pitch for help reviving travel
Charlotte NC Observer (Knight Ridder) 13Oct01 B2
By Cassio Furtado: Knight Ridder
Lawmakers urged to allow short-term tax credits to individuals

Travel Industry Intensely Lobbies Washington for Travel Tax Credit
FOX News (Reuters) 12Oct01 B2
By Doug Young

Travel industry seeks aid
Las Vgas NV Review-JournalO 13Oct01 B2
By Christine Dorsey: Donrey Washington Bureau
Officials ask Congress for tax breaks to stimulate tourism

Tourism Leaders Appeal for Economic Incentives to Aid Industry
Orlando FL Sentinel 13Oct01 B2


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