Tourism industry pushes for more relief | News | salemnews.com – The Salem News

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A clear sky. Low 44F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: September 30, 2021 @ 11:05 pm
Salem, Massachusetts
Salem’s tourism industry had to cope with the harsh toll from the pandemic and now tourism advocates on Beacon Hill are seeking to use some of the COVID-19 federal relief monies the state will receive for promoting the state’s many attractions.

Salem’s tourism industry had to cope with the harsh toll from the pandemic and now tourism advocates on Beacon Hill are seeking to use some of the COVID-19 federal relief monies the state will receive for promoting the state’s many attractions.
BOSTON — The tourism industry is asking lawmakers for more help for hotels, cultural attractions and other hospitality businesses that have been hammered by economic fallout of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, regional tourism officials told a legislative committee they need more marketing funds to attract visitors and buoy the industry.
Ann Marie Casey, executive director of the North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the state’s hotels have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, which has had a trickle-down effect on tourism spending.
“This is a segment that fuels all others,” she told the Legislature’s Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development during a livestreamed hearing. “People that stay overnight spend more money on dining, cultural attractions, museums, transportation, shopping and more.”
A proposal filed by Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, would pump more than $25 million into the state’s tourism and hospitality industries through grants.
The plan would increase the baseline funding for 16 regional tourism councils to $15 million annually. It would also divert excess revenues from the state’s lodging tax back into the tourism fund.
Tourism agencies received about $10 million in the current budget, but officials say overall funding has been flat for years.
Prior to the pandemic, tourism spending was a frequent target for cuts on Beacon Hill.
Cyr told the panel that Massachusetts is “near dead last” among other states in funding to promote tourism and cultural attractions.
“We are giving up ground to competing states that have chosen to put real dollars behind tourism,” he said. “California, Florida and New York (each) spend upwards of $70 million a year on tourism promotion.”
A separate bipartisan proposal, backed by more than 60 lawmakers, would divert $200 million in federal pandemic relief money to a new fund to support the state’s art museums, historical sites and other cultural attractions.
Tourism is the state’s third-largest industry, and officials say an economic recovery hinges, in part, on its survival.
Visitors to Massachusetts generated more than $22.9 billion in economic activity a year before the pandemic, yielding $1.5 billion in state and local taxes.
Tourism officials say travel spending in the state through July of this year was down more than 22% from 2019.
The state Office of Travel and Tourism has a competitive grant to help regional and local tourism agencies recover from the pandemic.
Its latest round of disbursements doled out more than $1.5 million in grants including $47,500 for Salem’s Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and $24,500 for the Gloucester Tourism Alliance.
Tourism officials said those grants, though helpful, are only a drop in the pan.
Rick Lofria, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, said given the economic realities facing the industry any boost in state funding would be welcomed.
“Things are still pretty tough,” Lofria said. “So anything the government can provide for us will help keep the engine going and move us forward.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@northofboston.com.
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