A look at the governor’s discussion with travel and tourism industry leaders about the industry’s impact on economic activity and job creation.

At the NGA Summer Meeting, Governors met with key leaders of the tourism and travel industry to discuss how the industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion also focused on the significant economic impact the industry has on states, businesses and individual Americans.

WITH the Chairman and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson opened the plenary session, noting how the vital travel and tourism industry “promotes billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs in our economies. Beyond the economic impact, however, getting out there and exploring the 55 states and territories offers all kinds of benefits. It enhances mental well-being, sparks curiosity and generates goodwill.”

Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs and Policy, at the US Travel Association, then moderated a discussion with the panelists:

  • Amir Eylon, President and CEO, Partner, Longwoods International;
  • Al Hutchinson, President and CEO, Visit Baltimore;
  • Keiko Matsudo Orrall, Executive Director, Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism; AND
  • Chris Thompson, President and CEO, Brand USA.

Panelists provided insight into how the industry continues to recover after a significant downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of international travel numbers, for example, the panelists explained that current projections show that the United States will not return to 2019 international visitor numbers until 2025. While travel has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, the panelists expressed optimism about the industry’s resilience and many positive trends, including increased consumer demand for travel and return and job creation. The panelists also detailed some of the trends they are seeing regarding Americans’ travel preferences and concerns, with most travelers’ safety concerns about COVID being eclipsed by concerns related to inflation, high gas prices and travel complications. aerial.

The governors addressed a number of challenges and opportunities they are seeing in their states and territories.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi shared the territory’s tourism industry “had a record year last year … believe it or not, in the middle of the pandemic, and this year we’re doing even better.” The governor shared how Puerto Rico decided to target American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for hotels. Puerto Rico has a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) and Governor Pierluisi “targeted ARPA funds to double the funding of our DMO. In Puerto Rico, this DMO called Discover Puerto Rico was created a few years ago … it promotes Puerto Rico on a consistent basis … and I tell my governors to think about [utilizing a DMO] because it works.”

Maine Governor Janet Mills shared examples of successful ways Maine helped tourism industry staff members navigate health and safety standards implemented during the pandemic to help employees and tourists. “One thing we did,” Governor Mills said, “was use our community colleges to set up a three-week type of training program for safety, health and security purposes so that people who work in the hospitality industry … to be trained on safety measures and hygiene. The governor also said that while Maine has yet to return to the tourism numbers seen in 2019, “tourism spending is much higher than it has ever been.” The governor also raised concerns that Maine and other states are facing housing shortages of manpower, which are proving “a major impediment to the supply of manpower to industry”.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu echoed concerns about workforce housing challenges, saying young people want to work but “can’t afford it. There is literally no place for them to live. They don’t want to drive an hour to work in a hotel.” Governor Sununu also addressed how the growth of the Vacation Rental by Owner (Vrbo) industry has created a “major economic shift” in the industry that he believes needs to be addressed.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker also addressed concerns about how housing shortages are affecting Massachusetts’ tourism industry, saying “we’ve started building housing in different places and supporting housing on the Cape specifically for the people who will be working there. because there is nowhere for them to go.”

Governor Doug Burgum i North Dakota addressed some of the unique considerations facing the 13 states that share a border with Canada, including challenges stemming from reduced staffing at border crossings, making it more difficult for Canadians to visit the United States for travel or other engagements economic. Governor Burgum also noted “one of the things I see in our state is that the tourism business has not adopted enough technology” and “there are technology solutions that would actually reduce the demand for the amount of work that we need … and we ” will make a push in North Dakota to promote equal automation tax credits for the utility industry.”

Watch the full session:

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