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Column: Travel, tourism jobs are at risk
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Column: Travel, tourism jobs are at risk

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Dave Herrell

Dave Herrell, president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities

As the last days of the year on the congressional calendar tick away, the Quad Cities regional destination’s travel, tourism and hospitality industries are in desperate need of relief. We need Congress to lead and act now before it is too late.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — which effectively grounded global travel and crippled the Quad Cities regional visitor economy — Visit Quad Cities has been advocating hard for support of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. By the end of December, the U.S. will lose 4.5 million direct travel jobs and more than $463 billion due to decreased travel spending. In the Quad Cities, we have lost millions of dollars in economic impact. In addition, the tax revenues that tourism drives to local, state and federal coffers represent a loss of nearly $60 billion since March 1.

The situation for this once-healthy economic segment grows more dire every day. By December 31, Tourism Economics projects that 50% of all travel-supported jobs will be lost. Additionally, 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, tourism and hospitality industries. We 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, tourism and hospitality industries, 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 (DMOs), allow for a second draw on PPP funds, and to extend the Coronavirus Relief Fund through the end of 2021.

The Quad Cities visitor economy is critical to the backbone of our regional economy, supporting 8,270 jobs, driving $954 million in annual visitor spending, and producing $52 billion in visitor spending in Illinois and Iowa. Tax revenues from tourism spending is essential to funding vital public services in our region and supports small businesses on both sides of the river.

Our Quad Cities visitor economy and those that are connected to it contribute so much to the fabric of our community and our authenticity. We need them to survive and thrive once again. Tourism is economic development and empowers people, the Q-C, and is vitally important to our recovery and future prosperity. Plus, tourism is simply good for our community’s soul.

There is not a moment to lose. Congress must come together — immediately — to provide relief to small businesses to ensure the industry is prepared to help power a nationwide economic recovery. Our regional destination and Quad Cities visitor economy is depending on it.

Dave Herrell is president and CEO of Visit Quad-Cities.

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