With nearly 400,000 travel industry jobs lost in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the economic downturn, both the U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association are urging President Barack Obama to enact legislation that reverses that trend and improves the economy. Both U.S. Travel and AHLA sent letters to the president in advance of last week’s White House Jobs Summit, held December 3.

“Travel is directly responsible for 7.7 million American jobs, making it one of the largest employment sectors in the country,” wrote Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer at U.S. Travel. “In fact, it is one of the few major industries where jobs do not leave the country and revenue is derived from both domestic and international sources.” Dow laid out seven recommendations for creating more travel industry jobs:

Create a Spousal Travel Tax Reduction to encourage business and meeting travelers to take their spouses along with them on business trips, increasing travel.

Increase the business-meal tax deduction to 80 percent from 50 percent.
Enact the Travel Promotion Act, which would create a nonprofit entity to welcome more visitors to the U.S.

Create more U.S. consular offices around the world to make obtaining visas and traveling to the U.S. easier, and hire 100 new consular officers and place them in key markets like India, China, and Brazil. The government should also invest in videoconferencing equipment to allow the State Department to conduct visa interviews remotely, argued Dow.

Increase the investment in roads and highways. Currently, 37 percent of all “lane miles” are in fair or poor condition, and 152,000 bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Update and modernize the air traffic control system.

Expand the customs areas at airports to expedite the process of inspecting passengers and cutting down on lines.

Joseph McInerney, president and CEO of AHLA, made similar recommendations in his letter to Obama. Specifically, he wrote in favor of the spousal travel tax deduction, an increase in the business meal tax deduction, and the passage of the Travel Promotion Act. “America’s hotels, lodges, resorts, and other lodging businesses are eager to help create new jobs,” stated McInerney, who added that the travel and hospitality industries employ approximately 10 percent of American workers.

Obama is set to deliver specific plans to create jobs at a speech to the Brookings Institution on December 8.