As the last days of the year on the congressional calendar tick away, Arizona’s travel and tourism industry is in desperate need of relief.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—which effectively grounded global travel and crippled Arizona’s local tourism economy—the U.S. has lost 3.5 million direct travel jobs and $463 billion due to decreased travel spending. In Arizona alone, we have lost nearly 40% of hotel jobs and have lost $10 billion in visitor spending in the first six months of 2020 alone.
The situation for this once-healthy economic segment grows more dire every day. By the end of December, Tourism Economics projects that 50% of all travel-supported jobs will be lost—an additional loss of 948,000 jobs and a total loss of 4.5 million direct travel jobs. Further, more than half (55%) of all small travel businesses in the U.S. are at risk of either taking longer than six months to recover or never recovering—all but ensuring a nationwide economic recovery will be impossible without relief for the travel and tourism industry. Arizona’s travel and tourism industry simply cannot wait any longer.
To ensure these businesses can remain open and keep workers on the payroll, Congress must act immediately. While there’s great need for a larger, comprehensive relief package to support all segments of the U.S. travel and tourism industry, we are asking—at the very least—for a targeted relief package now to provide immediate support. Such a relief package should include provisions to extend and expand the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to include 501(c)(6) and quasi-governmental destination marketing organizations and allow for a second draw on PPP funds, and to extend the Coronavirus Relief Fund through the end of 2021.
Travel and tourism is the backbone of our community, supporting more than 360,000 jobs and contributing $3.78 billion in tax revenue pre-pandemic. Tax revenue from tourism spending is essential to funding vital public services in our community such as firefighters, police officers and public-school teachers. Funding for these essential services and others will be jeopardized if small travel industry businesses do not get the support they need and are forced to shut their doors.
Arizona’s travel and tourism industry is what gives our state its unique character. The small businesses, attractions, restaurants and shops in Arizona contribute so much to the cultural fabric of our community. From the majestic sights of the Grand Canyon to Tombstone’s iconic OK Corral, Arizona is a top destination for travelers.
There is not a moment to lose. Congress must come together—immediately—to provide relief to small travel businesses to ensure the industry is prepared to help power a nationwide economic recovery. Arizona’s travel industry businesses and workers are counting on it.
Kim Sabow is president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association.