The tourism industry have won a major victory as U.S. Congress and President Bush provide economic relief to areas ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
The relief takes the form of targeted tax relief and a number of other initiatives proposed by the Travel Business Roundtable and Travel Industry Association of America
An $8.7 billion hurricane relief package, (HR 4440), was passed by Congress, and signed into law on December 22, 2005, by the President, which provides much-needed assistance for the employees, employers, and property owners affected in the designated Gulf Opportunity Zone. On behalf of the industry, TBR and TIA led the effort requesting targeted, time-limited tax measures that will aid in the restoration and rebuilding of vital businesses in the GO Zone. Specific items requested by the travel and tourism industry, which appear in the final bill, include:
* $1.5 billion in tax-exempt bond financing for reconstruction of business properties in the affected areas;
* A tax credit for employers who continued to pay employees’ wages, even while businesses were not operational;
* A 50% bonus depreciation deduction for qualified GO Zone property;
* Increased expensing under section 179;
* Exclusion from employee’s income of employer-provided housing expenses; and,
* An employer tax credit for employee housing expenses.
Jonathan Tisch, TBR Chairman and Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, said, “We applaud Congress’ action and appreciate the support given to those in our industry damaged or destroyed by the hurricanes. This legislation, which includes many of the travel and tourism industry’s requests and supports the citizens and businesses in dire need of assistance, is a necessary step toward fully rebuilding the Gulf Coast region. However I would be remiss if I did not mention our great disappointment in the decision to exclude legitimate industry sectors such as casinos and golf courses from the purview of the legislation.”
Roger J. Dow, TIA President and Chief Executive Officer, added, “Before the storms hit, the affected parishes and counties brought in $50 million a day in travel-related expenditures. One of every five jobs was related to our industry. With this help, the travel-related businesses in the affected areas have the initial support to eventually make a complete recovery and benefit their states and local communities as they have in the past.”