Biden Administration to Ease Pandemic Travel Restrictions; Senate Hearing Considers Legislation to Support Travel and Tourism Economy

The White House with Washington Monument

The Biden administration today announced that fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada will be allowed to enter the United States starting Nov. 8 for “non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism.” The easing of travel restrictions provides a renewed opportunity for international travel to boost domestic economic growth. Additionally, next month will see the end of a pandemic-driven, 18-month ban on travel from 33 countries, including members of the European Union. (Reuters, Oct. 15 and New York Times, Oct. 12 | Oct. 8

Why It Matters AHLA chart - Hotel Busines Travel Revenue by Market

  • The easing of travel restrictions could help rejuvenate the U.S. tourism industry and commercial real estate’s hospitality and retail sectors, which have been hit hard by the pandemic. Inbound international travel may help CRE through increased spending at hospitality, retail, attractions, health, and investment properties, generating revenues and creating American jobs. According to Marketwatch, relaxed travel restrictions may also

    lead to an increase in foreign investment in U.S. real estate. 

  • Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas stated, “Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy.” He added, “This new travel system will create consistent, stringent protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States – whether by air, land, or ferry – and accounts for the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations.” (DHS news release, Oct. 12)
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this week commented, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, members of our shared cross-border community have felt the pain and economic hardship of the land border closures. That pain is about to end.” (Schumer news release, Oct 12)
  • The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) also issued a Sept. 15 report on how hotels are projected to end 2021 with a loss of 500,000 jobs and more than $59 billion in business travel revenue compared to 2019. (AH&LA news release | state-by-state breakdown | market-by-market breakdown

Bipartisan Senate Efforts 

Senator Jacky Rosen  (D-NV) subcommittee hearing on travel and tourism

  • The Senate is preparing legislation to boost inbound travel and tourism to the United States, according to a Sept. 21 Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), above.
  • Executives from AH&LA and the U.S Travel Association testified at the hearing, entitled Legislative Solutions to Revive Travel and Tourism and Create Jobs.

  • Rosen, who leads the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, announced that bipartisan legislation is in the works to “support the recovery of the travel and tourism economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and help us build a brighter future for businesses and workers in this key sector for every state in our nation.” (Rosen news release, Sept. 22)
  • The imminent Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act would establish permanent federal leadership on travel policies, invest in public-private partnerships to increase visits to the U.S., and create a task force to address the pandemic’s impact on air travel. (BGov, Sept. 21) 

Full committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-MS) added his support for the emerging bill, saying that the nation’s travel and tourism challenges are a “bipartisan issue.” 

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Federal Reserve’s Robert Kaplan Discusses Economic Outlook with Roundtable; Real Estate Coalition Urges State and Local Officials to Distribute Federal Pandemic Relief Funds

Kaplan Discussion

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President and CEO Robert S. Kaplan, top left in photo, on April 12 discussed a wide range of monetary and fiscal policy issues with Roundtable Chairman Emeritus Robert S. Taubman (Chairman & CEO, Taubman Centers, Inc.), top right, and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, center. (Watch the Kaplan video interview on The Roundtable’s YouTube Channel)

The Fed View

  • The remote discussion focused on the overall economy, inflation trends, affordable housing, commercial real estate, the banking industry and cryptocurrency. Among Mr. Kaplan’s key points:
    • The Dallas Fed forecast for the 2021 U.S. economy’s growth rate is 6.5 percent

    • The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is outpacing the spread of the virus, positively affecting economic growth.  

    • A recovering economy follows improved health conditions, with expected increases in consumer mobility and spending.

    • A significant element driving the economic recovery is “Substantial fiscal policy, much more substantial as a percentage of GDP than we had during the Great Recession.” 
  • Kaplan acknowledged the challenge of balancing central bank monetary policies with fiscal policies enacted by lawmakers. “Anytime there’s fiscal actions or other changes, you have to keep recalibrating that balance. There’s no textbook for this because we haven’t been through a period where we were shut down and we’re now reopening … and there’s no precedent in recent years of fiscal policy that’s this size of GDP,” Kaplan said.  (Video of the discussion)
  • He commented about the yield on U.S. Treasuries, which rose to 1.77% last month. “As we recover, it wouldn’t surprise me for it to drift higher, the 10 year,” Kaplan said, adding, “There’s no shortage of capital” to buy Treasuries. (BGov, April 9)
  • Kaplan also addressed the economic trends monitored by the Dallas Fed, reopening progress and CRE debt exposure to banks.  

Pandemic Relief Funds & Distribution 


  • Significant fiscal policy enacted by Washington lawmakers last month authorized hundreds of billions in pandemic relief under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to households, small businesses, and the hospitality industry suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19. (Roundtable Weekly, March 12, 2021)
  • The Wall Street Journal reported on April 13 that state and local authorities are overwhelmed with “how to allocate $25 billion in federal rental relief, leaving many tenants and landlords waiting weeks or months for their share.”
  • The Roundtable is part of a broad real estate coalition that wrote on April 15 to state, county and municipal officials, urging them to distribute the allocated federal funds as soon as possible. (Coalition letter)
  • The coalition letter emphasized the need for elected state and local leaders “to quickly and fully allocate available American Rescue Plan federal funds to provide assistance to renters, consumer-facing small businesses, and impacted industries such as retail, tourism, travel, and hospitality that are having trouble paying rents, mortgages or remaining viable enterprises due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • The letter adds, “Such assistance would make a big difference in the lives of thousands upon thousands of COVID-19 affected renters and businesses in their cities, counties, and states – and would also provide stability to the buildings and communities in which they live.” 

The Treasury Department continues to implement pandemic recovery programs, including the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, State Small Business Credit Initiative, and renter and homeowner assistance. Treasury Secretary Yellen  and White House Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling met yesterday with members of the National Governor’s Association Executive Committee to determine the most efficient and effective way to get federal resources to states. (Treasury Dept readout, April 15) 

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Biden Administration Details Tax Proposals to Fund Infrastructure Package

The White House - roses

The Biden administration this week released additional details on its proposals to raise corporate taxes to pay for its massive $2.3 trillion economic growth and infrastructure proposal.

Infrastructure & Taxes

  • President Biden, anticipating Congress’ return next week to begin deliberations on his proposal, stated, “Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable. Changes are certain. Inaction simply is not an option.” (White House remarks, April 7)
  • The administration aims to raise $2.5 trillion to pay for its sprawling “American Jobs Plan” by increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, imposing a strict new minimum tax on global profits, and eliminating incentives to shift profits overseas. (New York Times, April 7)
  • The proposed taxes to fund the infrastructure investments were detailed this week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen – “A Better Corporate Tax for America” – and in Treasury’s report, “The Made in American Tax Plan.”
  • According to an April 8 Wall Street Journal report, the infrastructure proposal includes at least $5 billion for an affordable-housing grant program that would encourage local jurisdictions to relax zoning rules and restrictions on new construction.  The new competitive grants for cities and localities would seek to eliminate exclusionary zoning policies such as minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements and density restrictions.
  • The Journal article quotes a recent Urban Institute brief: “There are so many decisions made at the local level that can impede the development of affordable housing that federal policy makers should push communities to reorganize their approach to development from the ground up.”
  • The Roundtable has long encouraged federal agencies to leverage economic development and infrastructure funds to discourage exclusionary zoning tactics. Bills such as the Yes in My Backyard Act  and the Build More Housing Near Mass Transit Act would require state and local governments to plan for and encourage high-density and multifamily development when they seek grants from US-HUD and US-DOT. (Roundtable Weekly, March 6, 2020 and February 28, 2020)

What’s Next:

U.S. Capitol with flag

  • Democrats are weighing whether to advance the Biden infrastructure plan under the same “reconciliation” budget process that was used to pass the March $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package by a simple majority vote – thereby bypassing the 60-vote requirement typically needed to advance most legislation in the 50-50 Senate.
  • Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough this week issued an opinion that may allow Democrats to pass additional, large-scale bills with no Republican support before the midterm elections. The sparse April 5 ruling, according to a Democratic spokesperson, has “some parameters [that] still need to be worked out.” The ruling does not specify the types of reconciliation bills that could be considered or how many times the maneuver would be allowed. (Politico, April 7 and CQ News, April 8)
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) yesterday said, “If [Democrats] have to go to reconciliation, that’s a lever, but I hope it’s not something that we need to do.” (Roll Call, April 8)
  • Pelosi added that the House could pass the infrastructure package by the July 4 recess, followed by the Senate before the August recess. (Bloomberg, April 8)

Pelosi also said she expects the White House in the coming months to introduce a separate, multi-trillion “American Families Plan” focused on expanded family support benefits, including child care and health measures. That plan could be pared with significant changes to individual taxes, including capital gains.

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Biden Administration Preparing Multitrillion Economic Growth Proposal; Transportation Secretary Buttigieg Testifies Gateway Project Has “Sense of Urgency”

Oval Office Infrastructure meeting Biden Buttigieg others

President Biden will unveil an ambitious economic growth plan on March 31 that may cost up to $4 trillion to fund his administration’s wide-ranging goals on infrastructure, climate and domestic policies. (Reuters, March 24 and Bloomberg News, March 25) 

  • The administration’s legislative effort may be split into two parts – an initial package that funds transportation projects with a focus on climate change, and a second that addresses domestic priorities such as universal prekindergarten, national childcare and free community college tuition.  (Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, March 22, New York Times March 25)
  • Congressional Democrats are working on a filibuster-proof fiscal 2022 reconciliation bill to advance President Biden’s economic recovery plan, along with a five-year surface transportation reauthorization. Funding for the current surface transportation bill expires Sept. 30. (Law360, March 22)
  • Axios reported on March 23, the White House is considering using the budget reconciliation process two more times this year, after using it to pass the recent $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package without any Republican support. Enacting three separate reconciliation packages would be unprecedented, and require a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that proposed legislation is eligible for reconciliation under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. 

Focus on Gateway Project: 

Gateway Project map

  • The “Gateway” rail tunnel project between New York City and New Jersey is a high priority for the Biden administration that is being treated with a “sense of urgency,” according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who testified March 25 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. (BGov, March 25)
  • “This is a regional issue, but one of national significance because if there were a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it,” Buttigieg said. He added that federal and state officials are working “to develop the next administrative draft of the environmental impact statement, which is a big part of what needs to be completed in order to get there.”
  • Buttigieg also acknowledged that funding the administration’s infrastructure transportation goals must look to other revenue sources than borrowing. “There is a simple set of places we can look: user fees, general fund or other tax sources as Congress has done to fill gaps in Highway Trust Fund in recent years or borrowing,” Buttigieg testified.

 How to Pay: 

Yellen and Powell remote testimony

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified jointly this week before House and Senate committees on economic conditions and pandemic relief. (Wall Street Journal, March 23)
  • Yellen testified before the House Financial Services Committee on March 23 that future taxes are needed to fund infrastructure programs. “A package that consists of investments in people, investments in infrastructure, will help to create good jobs in the American economy, and changes to the tax structure will help to pay for those programs.” She added, “We do need to raise revenues in a fair way to support the spending that this economy needs to be competitive and productive.” (Financial Times, March 23)
  • Chairman Powell responded to a concern from House Committee Member Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) that Fed data indicates 51 percent of current commercial real estate debt is held by banks and that community banks have a higher concentration of these loans. Powell stated, “We’re monitoring CRE very carefully. Its concentrations arise principally in smaller banks, and we’ll have to monitor it carefully as we allow moratoriums to elapse. We’re well aware of the issue and we’ll be sure to move very, very carefully when we do address that.”
  • The two regulators also testified before the Senate Banking Committee on March 24. Treasury Secretary Yellen stated that the federal government can afford to invest trillions, despite the national debt. “My views on the amount of fiscal space that the United States, I would say, have changed somewhat since 2017. Interest payments on that debt relative to GDP have not gone up at all, and so I think that’s a more meaningful metric of the burden of the debt on society and on the federal finances,” Yellen said. (The Hill, March 24)

 Taxes & CRE: 

Taxes and CRE Ryan McCormick

  • A March 25 BisNow webinar on Tax Policy and the Impact on CRE featured Roundtable Senior Vice President and Tax Counsel Ryan McCormick, bottom left in photo. The webinar focused on the outlook for real estate tax policy in 2021, with an emphasis on like-kind exchanges and opportunity zones.
  • Other participants included Ja’Ron Smith, former Deputy Assistant to President Trump; Capital Square Founder and CEO Louis Rogers; and David Franasiak, Principal at Williams & Jensen. (Watch Video)

Congress leaves Washington today for a two-week recess. “When the Senate returns to session, our agenda will be no less ambitious than it was over the past few months,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said yesterday. (The Hill, March 25 and New York Times, March 26) 

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“VisitU.S.” Coalition, Roundtable Advance Policy Recommendations to Boost Economic Growth

Robust international travel helps power economic growth and commercial real estate through tourism dollars directly spent at U.S. hotels, resorts, stores, home purchases, attraction, and investment properties. That is the message to policymakers from the multi-industry VisitU.S. Coalition, which aims to safely and securely welcome more overseas travelers to the U.S. – who stay an average of 18 nights and spend approximately $4,360 at hotels, stores, restaurants and attraction properties on business and leisure trips. (VisitU.S. Policy Agenda

The multi-industry  VisitU.S. Coalition  aims to safely and securely welcome more overseas travelers to the U.S. – who stay an average of 18 nights and spend approximately $4,360 at hotels, stores, restaurants and attraction properties on business and leisure trips. (  VisitU.S.Policy Agenda  )

  • The coalition advocates for policies from the Trump Administration and Congress to regain the nation’s lost share of the global travel market by 2020, which will result in 88 million international visitors who directly support 1.3 million U.S. jobs and $294 billion in travel exports – crucial to achieving the Administration’s economic goals. (Roundtable Weekly Jan. 19 Feb. 9)
  • To address policies that may encourage or discourage in-bound travel – as well as the impact of  the travel and tourism market on CRE – The Roundtable will host a panel discussion during its June 14 Annual Meeting entitled “ Enhancing International Travel and Tourism.
  • “We should be encouraging international tourism and promoting policies that not only make the visa system more secure and accessible, but also streamline the process,” said Jeffrey D. DeBoer, President and CEO of The Real Estate Roundtable. “Increasing inbound international travel to the U.S. helps power the commercial real estate industry here at home through spending at hospitality, retail, attraction, health, and investment properties – all of which generate revenues to boost overall economic growth and create American jobs,” DeBoer added.
  • Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels & Co. spoke about the coalition’s concerns and goals during a Monday interview with CNBC’s “Squawkbox” and at an international hospitality industry investment conference.  ( Squawkbox Interview, June 4 and GlobeSt, June 6)
  • In a June 4 Travel Weekly editorial, Tisch also addressed the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate Brand USA, a public-private partnership created by Congress to promote America as the best destination for international visitors.  Tisch writes, “The program returns an estimated $28 in visitor spending for every $1 invested –  without a single dollar from U.S. taxpayers. Although the fees that fund it were extended, after 2020, those monies will be diverted to the U.S. Treasury instead of Brand USA. Unless this is fixed, the program will be in limbo.”

Led by the U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the VisitU.S. coalition also includes The Real Estate Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Resort Development Association. 

Hospitality CEOs Meet With President Trump to Advocate Reauthorization of Brand USA Program; Visa Application Process Improvements

The vital contributions to the U.S. economy and job creation by the travel and tourism industry were the focus of a meeting Tuesday between President Trump and CEOs of 13 hospitality companies, including four members of The Real Estate Roundtable. 

Among the hotel CEOs participating in the White House meeting on travel and tourism this week were former Real Estate Roundtable Chairman Chris Nassetta of Hilton, along with Roundtable members Elie Maalouf of InterContinental Hotels GroupPatrick Pacious of Choice Hotels International; and James Risoleo of Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc

– enlarge photo 

  • The White House meeting focused on ways the Trump Administration and private industry can work together to achieve travel-related economic growth.  Among the policies discussed to help improve inbound travel: expanding and enhancing secure visa policies; supporting the Brand USA destination marketing agency; the importance of international inbound travel to reduce the growing trade deficit; and transportation infrastructure — all critical to increasing both international and domestic travel. 
  • Among the hotel CEOs participating in the meeting were former Real Estate Roundtable Chairman Chris Nassetta of Hilton, along with Roundtable members  Elie Maalouf of InterContinental Hotels GroupPatrick Pacious of Choice Hotels International; and James Risoleo of Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc
  • The Visit U.S. coalition, which includes The Roundtable, is urging Congress to reauthorize Brand USA — the nation’s tourism marketing program, which is not supported by taxpayer dollars, but through fees on foreign visitors who do not require a visa when entering the U.S.  Legislation is needed to authorize the program beyond 2020 and ensure that visitor fees authorized for collection from 2021 to 2027 will not be diverted to the Treasury Department, as currently scheduled. 
  • An FY2017 return on investment analysis showed each dollar of Brand USA marketing generated almost 28 dollars in visitor spending.  Moreover, Brand USA-generated international visitor spending is estimated to have produced 486 million dollars in federal tax revenue, and another 526 million dollars in state and local tax revenue.
  • Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said, “The president is a keen listener whenever you’re talking about growing the economy, and he was receptive to the idea that travel growth can be achieved without compromising security.” 

A panel discussion at The Roundtable’s June 14 Annual Meeting focused on the travel and tourism issue.  Participants included Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Roundtable Board Member Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust; USTA’s Roger Dow; and American Hotel & Lodging Association’s President and CEO Katherine Lugar.  (Roundtable Weekly, June 15, 2018.)