FILE - O'Hare Airport, Control Tower-Green Building

A view of downtown Chicago skyline is seen from the south air traffic control tower at O'Hare International Airport in 2019.

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Travel Association has released a dire forecast of the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said the pandemic will cost the industry $355 billion and more than 4 million jobs.

“What we’re looking at is 4.6 million unemployed the way things are unraveling right now," Dow said. "That will take the unemployment rate – from just that alone – from 3.5 percent to 6.3 percent.”

Cheryl Bockhold-Sloan, spokesperson with Peoria International Airport, said some planes are leaving the terminal with fewer than 10 passengers

Tim Davis, the owner of Direct Travel in Bloomington, said he doesn’t see the industry rebounding for at least 30 to 60 days.

Dow, along with lobbying groups representing the country’s travel and tourism industry, recently met with President Donald Trump and other officials to discuss the devastating effect of the pandemic.

The group urged the administration to take measures to help the ailing industry, including $150 billion in relief.

Dow said it was crucial to keep employees in the travel industry solvent so they won't lose their homes.

“The economic pain could be 6 times that of 9/11,” he said.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.