BOSTON – The tourism industry is asking lawmakers for more help with hotels, cultural attractions and other hotel businesses that have been hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Regional tourism officials told a legislative committee on Tuesday that they needed more marketing funds to attract visitors and boost the industry.
Ann Marie Casey, executive director of the North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said hotels across the state have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, which has had a ripple effect on tourism spending.
“It’s a segment that feeds into all the others,” she told the Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Tourism, the Arts and Cultural Development in a live hearing. âPeople who stay overnight spend more money on restaurants, cultural attractions, museums, transportation, shopping and more.â
A proposal tabled by Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, would inject more than $ 25 million into the state’s tourism and hospitality industries through grants.
The plan would increase the base funding for 16 regional tourism councils to $ 15 million per year. It would also divert excess revenue from the state accommodation tax into the tourism fund.
Tourism agencies have received around $ 10 million in the current budget, but officials say overall funding has been stable for years.
Prior to the pandemic, tourism spending was a frequent target for cuts in Beacon Hill.
Cyr told the panel that Massachusetts is “near last” among other states in funding to promote tourism and cultural attractions.
“We are ceding ground to competing states that have chosen to put real money into tourism,” he said. âCalifornia, Florida and New York (each) spend over $ 70 million a year promoting tourism.
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 art museums, historic sites and other cultural attractions across the country. ‘State.
Tourism is the state’s third-largest industry, and officials say an economic recovery depends, in part, on its survival.
Visitors to Massachusetts generated more than $ 22.9 billion in economic activity a year before the pandemic, generating $ 1.5 billion in state and local taxes.
Tourism officials say travel spending in the state through July of this year has fallen by more than 22% from 2019.
The State Travel and Tourism Board has a competitive grant to help regional and local tourism agencies recover from the pandemic.
Its latest round of disbursements distributed more than $ 1.5 million in grants, including $ 47,500 for the Salem Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and $ 24,500 for the Gloucester Tourism Alliance.
Tourism officials have said that these subsidies, while useful, are just a drop in the bucket.
Rick Lofria, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, said given the economic realities facing the industry, any increase in state funding would be welcome.
âThings are still pretty tough,â Lofria said. âSo anything the government can provide us with will help keep the engine running and move us forward. “
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for newspapers and the North of Boston Media Group websites. Email him at [email protected]