Black Meetings and Tourism

September / October 2020

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Page 24 of 40

24 B M & T ••• September/October ••• PROVES CRITICAL TO HILLS BOROUGH COUNTY'S ECONOMIC RECOVERY FOLLOWING COVID-19 U nderlining the importance of the hospitality industry in the recovery of the local economy, an annual eco- nomic impact report by industry analyst, Tourism Economics reveals that tourism accounted for pumping $6.9 billion into Hillsborough County's bottom line in 2019, a 67% increase in the last decade. The independent study by industry experts Tourism Economics, commissioned by Visit Tampa Bay is part of the destination marketing organization's annual review of the economic impact of tourism on the local economy. Across the board, the report revealed an increase in visitor spending, hotel occupancy, revenue, employment and overall visitation, which reached an all-time high with more than 24.5 million visi- tors last year. Before the pandemic's relentless impact on travel, the industry support- ed more than 54,000 jobs, generated $2.5 billion in total wages and saved every household $840 in state and local taxes. "Seeing these numbers is bittersweet," says Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. "The report is reflective of the hard work and momentum we had gained in increasing visitation before the pandemic, but it also proves how vital tourism is to the economic success, and ultimately the recovery, of our county following COVID-19." The food and beverage sector contin- ued to increase faster than any other TOURISM GENERATED $6.9 BILLION IN 2019, Tampa ready for next mee with even treasures uncove Visit to watch a video from our Na onal Account Director, Bri any Callahan, to see how we're prepared for your mee ng. An array of new ways to stay There's a hotel op on for every a endee with the fivestar JW Marrio Tampa Water Street opening in November as well as new offerings from bou ques, Hya and Hilton. That means more than 1,500 new hotel rooms, 1,000 more renovated rooms and a variety of new mee ng spaces — all for your next mee ng. spending category accounting for 28%, or $1.2 billion, in visitor spending. "As we emerge from our pandemic lockdown, it's time to look forward to the much-needed resump- tion of Florida tourism," said Richard Gonzmart, fourth- generation caretaker and owner of the Columbia Restaurant Group. "When the time is right, we need to declare to the world that Florida Is Open: Open For Pleasure, Open For Sunshine, Open For Beaches, Open For Fun, Open For Food/Deliciousness, Open For Nature, Open For History. We have so very much to offer, especially now." The report also outlines the realities of COVID-19 and the aftermath facing the tourism industry. While 75% of the recovery is expected to occur in 2021, the remainder will take longer to get back to 2019 levels pend- ing several scenarios. "There are still a lot of unknowns at this stage, but one thing is certain – travel is possible if done so responsibly," says Corrada. "We have an integral role to play in communicating the safeguards local businesses and attractions are taking to welcome visitors back. We all are responsible in playing a part in defeating this global health crisis, because the sooner we do, the sooner we'll be able to recover.

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