- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Tourism industry executives asked lawmakers yesterday for immediate short-term relief and loan guarantees to encourage more travel, which has suffered in the month since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"We are not asking for a bailout just your leadership in recognizing a major problem and its tremendous impact on our economic stability and jobs," said J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman and chief executive of Marriott International, of Bethesda.
He touted to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on consumer affairs, foreign commerce and tourism the idea of a tax credit for travel.
Mr. Marriott called it "a temporary business travel tax credit, limited in time and cost," which consumers would be able to claim filing their taxes in April.
A number of lawmakers warmed to the idea, including Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, proposed including such a tax credit as part of the economic stimulus package now under consideration in Congress.
Tourism in Florida has slowed considerably since the Sept. 11 attacks. Other big cities have been hard hit as well, including New York, Las Vegas, Chicago and Washington.
"Our big city and resort convention hotels have been hit the hardest with massive group cancellations," Mr. Marriott said.
He added that the lodging industry carries about $150 billion in mortgage debt, suggesting that if business remains slow many hotels won't be able to make payments.
"These past four weeks have been the most difficult weeks for the travel and tourism industry that I have experienced in the 45 years I have been in the business," he added.
Net reservations at Marriott hotels in the United States since Sept. 11 have slipped by 94 percent, Mr. Marriott said.
Business at the chain was down 10 percent before that date. And compared with this time last year, revenue is down 40 percent.
Overall hotel occupancy in the District stands at 30 percent at a time when 80 percent occupancy is the norm, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams told lawmakers.
"Here in the District, we are home to perhaps the greatest targets for terrorist activity in America," Mr. Williams said. "This extra exposure requires greater security measures at the airport, on the streets, and at major gatherings, which creates greater concern among people who may decide to live, work, or start a business here."
The District's economy is projected to lose $750 million the first six months after Sept. 11.

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