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Travel and tourism industry seeks federal help

By Cleve Mesidor

Washington (CNN) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans Tuesday heard top officials from the travel and tourism industry describe their problems resulting from the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Officials communicated their issues and made suggestions about ways in which the department could help the industry recover. The hotel industry, for example, says it has suffered about a 30 to 40 percent drop in occupancy. One of the ideas discussed was a federal tax incentive. However, Evans refused to go into specifics about what that would entail.

Evans said Americans should be confident that travel is safe.

The travel and tourism industry represents five percent of the U.S. economy's gross domestic product, generates $578.8 billion in revenue a year, and creates 19 million jobs.

J.W. Marriott, Jr., CEO of Marriott International, said it was urgent to "get Americans going again. Get America on the move again. Fly, take a vacation, stay in a hotel, go to a theme park, rent a car. But get out, doing what you were doing before, otherwise, we will really be giving the victory to the terrorist," Marriott said.

Marriott urged that "we open Reagan National as fast as we can. Because that would send the symbol to the world we do believe that air travel in this country is safe."

Evans would not comment on the proposal by the Air Line Pilots Association, the largest pilots' union, to give pilots the option to carry handguns.

James E. Goodwin, CEO of United Airlines, commented on the 20,000 lay-offs that United announced today. He said that the Airline did not have any plans to lay off any additional employees but will look at this week's business as an indicator to outlook the future. The airline industry is currently operating at about 80 percent capacity, filling only about 50 percent of those seats.


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