On April 23, 2021, the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) submitted a letter to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) outlining three main recommendations for how American Rescue Plan funding can be used to stimulate local economies through tourism. TTAB explains that tourism is vital for communities working to rebuild their economies: three million tourism employees lost their jobs in 2020; federal, state, and local tax revenue related to tourism decreased by 34%. Additionally, only 25% of businesses plan to resume domestic business travel in the next three months, emphasizing the importance of leisure travel.
With this in mind, the TTAB recommendations prioritize tourism marketing, sales, and promotional activities, as funding for these activities is typically generated by overnight visitor stays, which travel restrictions drastically reduced overnight visitation in 2020. The recommendations also request an expanded definition of infrastructure to enhance accessibility and safety, aid recovery efforts while simultaneously bettering communities for locals and visitors alike.
Recommendation #1: EDA should prioritize efforts to drive demand through business and leisure travel marketing, sales, and promotional activities.
The first recommendation provides critically needed funding for convention and visitors bureaus and other destination marketing organizations conducting marketing and promotional efforts to stimulate travel demand. TTAB urges the EDA to allow funding to be used for media advertising, marketing campaign development, lead generation, promotional events and sponsorships, and public relations efforts. The ability to conduct these tried-and-true activities is vital to restore consumer confidence in travel.
Recommendation #2: EDA should implement an extended definition of infrastructure to include human capacity and new product development to support recreation, leisure, and business travel.
Expanding the traditional definition of infrastructure will help create more livable communities for residents while also enhancing the visitor experience. The expansion would allow funding to be used for outdoor recreation improvement and accessibility projects, wifi accessibility, investment in health and hygiene, training programs and resources in capacity building programs for small, women-owned, or minority-owned businesses, and workforce development programs. Such initiatives create more inclusive communities, protect the health of residents and visitors, and sustainable local economies.
Recommendation #3: The EDA should structure the guidelines for granting distribution and measurement of outcomes to maximize efficiency and consistency.
Lastly, TTA urges the EDA to revise its traditional processes to allow more efficient distribution and ensure funding is allocated specifically for travel and tourism purposes. This includes revising guidelines and considering awarding both block grants and competitive grants.
Tourism is a key economic driver for communities at every level. By creating more opportunities for communities to utilize American Rescue Plan funding for tourism efforts, we will revitalize local economies and support sustainable economic growth.