tv Senate Hearing on Travel Tourism During Coronavirus Pandemic CSPAN April 14, 2021 4:12pm-5:59pm EDT
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trade and export promotion. i would like to thank senator rick scott, the ranking member of the subcommittee, for agreeing to work with me in a bipartisan way on the critical issues that are so important to workers, businesses and families in both of our states. and across the country. and i look forward to a productive partnership. i also would like to thank chair cantwell and ranking member witmer for their leadership and agreeing to establish this crucial subcommittee at a time when travel, tourism and hospitality may need more support than ever before.
travel and tourism related industries drive job creation and economic growth in states across america, especially in nevada, where the industries and the workers they employ are absolutely essential to our state's prosperity. from the excitement and energy of the las vegas strip, to the exquisite outdoor recreation opportunities at lake tahoe to the magnificent engineering feat that is the hoover dam and the vast and pristine public lands throughout our state, people love to visit nevada. prior to the pandemic, in 2019, about 55 million people visited the silver state, which was a record-setting figure. in the las vegas area alone, direct visitor spending reached almost $37 billion, directly supported more than 242,000 workers in a tourism, leisure and hospitality industries. jobs in those sectors account for about 9% of all u.s. jobs.
a major slice of the nation's economy. in nevada, they employ about a quarter of our workforce. with tourism as our life blood, this pandemic has hit nevada particularly hard. it brought our travel and tourism having economies screeching to a halt and decimated the jobs that these industries support. in april 2020, the unemployment rate in nevada was the highest in our state's history, and the worst in the nation, skyrocketed to almost 30%. i want to repeat that, 30% unemployment. they were unemployed through no fault of their own. it was all because of the covid-19 pandemic, and that contributed to the worst economic downturn in the tourism industry we have ever experienced in my state of nevada.
through ppp loas congress has worked to support tourism businesses and workers during this difficult period. far more needs to be done. now it is time to bring this critical industry back to its thriving prepandemic economic status. i intend to use this subcommittee to find bipartisan pathways and solutions to do just that. we're going to get americans and the world traveling again. today's inaugural hearing titled the state of travel and tourism during covid will examine the economic impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on the travel and tourism industry. with a particular focus on hotels, conventions, and the broader hospitality industry. we'll discuss regional impacts of the pandemic on tourism heavy economies like nevada's and florida's and those communities disproportionately affected by covid-19's economic downturn. here today both virtually and in
person we have a panel of wonderful witnesses to share their expertise, provide insight, and recommendations and take questions for members of the subcommittee. we will hear from witnesses representing the las vegas convention and visitors authority, and mgm resorts international, u.s. travel association, florida restaurant and lodging association. from this hearing i hope the subcommittee will gain a robust understanding of the current needs of our nation's travel and tourism industry so that we can craft the most efebtive and targeted solutions to revive our economy and support the travel and tourism workforce. while the focus of today is primarily hotels, conventions the broader hospitality industry, restaurants and casinos, ranking member scott and i will ensure this
subcommittee hears from key stake holders across the board. over next few months, you'll hear from the airports about the pandemic impact on international travel, we'll explore eco tourism, we'll raise the voices of small businesses, hospitality workers and the live entertainment workforce. and we'll chart a path forward for the future. thank you all again for being here today. i look forward to hearing each of you share your experiences and expertise with us. now i'll turn it over to ranking member scott for his opening statement and introduce our witnesses so they can provide testimony to the panel. senator scott. >> first, thank you. we both come from tourism states and we know the importance of making sure that we have robust tourism. i remember being at i think supposed to be the largest tourism convention or event supposedly in the world down in
rio de janeiro, brazil, and las vegas had an unbelievably beautiful space there and they presented nevada really well. so it is -- it is a great state and it is a great place to take a vacation. i want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today and sharing their opinions. i finished as governor of florida, i worked in hand with carol, tourism is a big deal in our state. and she is truly a champion for our tourism industry if our state. i want to thank chair cantwell and ranking member wicker for giving us the opportunity to do this. it is an honor to lead this subcommittee. as you heard from chair rosen, some of our states have gotten hurt because of what has happened with the pandemic.
during my time as governor we put -- we invested as actually quite a bit of state money and worked on growing tourism. we went from 80 million tourists ayer to my last year, 126 million tourists. last year the state of florida tourism like all other states was down significantly. and we shattered records and creates a lot of jobs. and these visitors, they support our small businesses, they fuel our job growth, increase our state and local investments in the environment and transportation and public safety and education. what happens in florida is people come to visit and i'm sure the same thing happens in nevada, people come to visit, they say this is a nice place, i'll build my business here, it drives development in both of our states. our state has 15 seaports, the gateway to latin america. florida is a hub for businesses across the nation for import and export. we try to move all the business we can out of california over to florida.
so goods that flow through florida airports have grown to $154 billion a year. do our focus on building international trade relationships. we -- in 2016 exports from florida support an estimated 232,000 american jobs. these are the tourism is big jobs, the trade jobs are big jobs with the ports, we invested in my eight years $1.4 billion just in our ports. i know that this pandemic impacted every one of us, our families, and all of us have tried to figure out how to deal with this, keep everybody safe, our family safe, our businesses safe, our employees safe. i heard from a lot of small businesses around the -- my state that rely on the tourism industry, had been devastated by the pandemic. while i'm glad florida is open for business, our businesses are open, our schools are open, the uncertainty of when the industry -- tourism industry will reopen in other states and communities across the country
is clearly impacted. i know everybody is working hard to keep their businesses going and get back in business and be able to employ everybody again and i hope that happens quickly. as our nation works to recover from the coronavirus, and get our economy back on track, i'm going to be doing everything i can with senator rosen to support the tourism industry in florida and across the country. i'm also very focused on what happens in puerto rico. the puerto rico is devastated by hurricane maria and had the earthquake and now covid-19. we worked hard to make sure there is good aid for puerto rico's recovery. i've been working on a lot of bills, like senator rosen has, i have my bipartisan covid detection act with senator cinema, this directs the tsa to conduct a feasibility study on canine units effective in detecting covid and hopefully will provide an opportunity to make people feel safer flying. we got to get people back in the air for all of our states.
we have a bipartisan bill with chair cantwell to enable a temperature check pilot program at airports. and today i introduced the careful resumption under improved safety enhancement act or cruise act with senator sullivan and rubio to help our cruise industry restart and support the many businesses in our communities that rely on the success of the cruise industry. i guess you don't have a lot of cruises, but -- >> they cruise up and down the las vegas strip. >> that's right. and you got a lot of walking. it has been frustrating. the cruise industry has been waiting for months for updated guidance from the cdc and i think it is wrong what happened. they got to -- we got to get the cruise industry the terms, the rules and they'll reopen safely. i know that industry wants to do it safely. it is an important job created for us. i want to make sure that happens. we'll do everything we can. i look forward to working with all my colleagues to grow tourism not just in nevada, not
just in florida, but even in states beautiful states like mississippi. >> thank you, senator scott. i would like to now introduce here in person our ranking member. >> thank you, senator rosen, senator scott, senator scott, i share that sentiment with you because we have a number of tourism opportunities, not the least of which is the national civil rights trail and the national blues trail, which more and more people are coming to visit as well as our other more traditional tourism sites. thank you, both, for holding this hearing today to hear industry perspectives on the state of the travel and tourism industry. this is a great topic for the new tourism, trade and export promotion subcommittee. i expect this committee will be very busy and i look forward to participating. the travel and tourism industry
is a key pillar of the american economy. before the covid 19 pandemic, this industry support roughly 16 million jobs and generated $1.1 trillion in consumer spending, accounting for over 2.5 trillion in total economic output. covid-19 deaf straited the industry more than any other economic sector in the united states. nearly 40% of the total u.s. jobs lost during the pandemic have been in leisure and hospitality employment. during the worst point of this crisis, the employment in the travel and tourism industry reached over 50%. more than double the national employment rate at the height of the great depression. congress has sought to provide much needed support to help the industry recover. the c.a.r.e.s. act provided urgently needed relief to travel and tourism businesses in the form of grants, emergency loans and lines of credit. the fifth covid relief bill,
which passed in december, as part of the fy '21 appropriations act expanded the industry's access to many of these c.a.r.e.s. act relief programs. more recently the american rescue plan act provided $750 million for the economic development administration to help communities impacted by the loss of travel and tourism. additionally the bill included a $28.6 billion restaurant revitalization fund or restaurants modeled after the bipartisan restaurants act which i drafted with my friend senator cinema, a member of the subcommittee. the small business administration has been tasked with standing up the restaurant fund and the sba may start allocating grants very, very soon. federal resources should help shore up the tourism sector, i recognize the impacts of the pandemic will be long lasting. i hope our witnesses today will update the committee on the
current status of the travel and tourism industry, how the increasing availability of covid-19 vaccines affects opportunities for recovery in ways the public and private sectors can partner to help restore demand for travel as the public health situation improves. continues to improve. it may take years to restore travel and tourism to its prepandemic levels, but i hope not. i'm hopeful this subcommittee can identify bipartisan opportunities to help the sector heal and prosper much sooner than that. thank you, madam chair. >> thank you. thank you, senator wicker. and appreciate you being, both chairman and ranking member. right now i would like to welcome via webex senator cortez masto, my partner in representing nevada in the senate. she's a tireless advocate for
travel and tourism industry, and i would like to welcome her to introduce to the subcommittee our witness from las vegas, senator cortez masto, i turn it to you to introduce mr. hill. >> chair rosen, thank you so much. ranking member scott, i appreciate the opportunity to join you today. it is great to be back in the commerce committee that i enjoyed serving on when i first came to the senate. the committee does great work promoting on tourism. as you know and as you stated tourism is vital to the economic health of our country. i so appreciate you bringing these experts to talk about the importance of the travel industry to nevada and to the nation as a whole. all of these participants are great partners and leaders in the travel industry, which has been so hard hit by the covid-19 pandemic and our tourism economy will need our full support as
the nation recovers. that's why i have been working in a bipartisan way on the hospitality commerce job recovery act with senator cramer along with the bipartisan step act with senators klobuchar. with that, i appreciate the chance to be here and introduce steve hill. steve has been an economic champion in nevada for many years. since being named the ceo and president of the las vegas convention and visitors authority in 2018, steve has been a great job of creating more opportunities for southern nevada to be even more inviting to our visitors every year from completion of the convention expansion to the innovative people mover system and now weathering this health and economic crisis, steve has been a solid and steady hand and in working to bring us out of this critical challenge to our state
and local economy. i appreciate his partnership on many of the legislative efforts we have worked on. i appreciate the committee bringing his expertise in for this hearing today. thank you. >> thank you, senator, that was a very kind introduction. and thank you chair rosen, ranking member scott, for inviting me to be here today. i don't know if it is appropriate to congratulate you on the formation of this subcommittee, but it seems like the right thing to do, so i would like to congratulate you and also add the appreciation of our industry for doing so. we have great supporters in senator cortez masto, and senator rosen, i know they represent nevada well.
and our tourism industry well. in the senate we have really appreciated being able to work with them on much of the legislation that they sponsored on behalf of the travel industry. so thank you very much. i'm going to emphasize really some of the things that you have already said. our industry is central to the u.s. economy, there is a big part of the u.s. economy, and it is critical to the recovery of the u.s. economy. as you mentioned, full strength our industry supports 16 million jobs in the united states, one in every nine jobs, it is one of the seventh largest industries in the country. and it was certainly the industry most affected by the pandemic. when our industry is suffering, it is large enough and has a big enough impact that it is felt throughout all of our
communities, it affects all of our suppliers and service providers, and, you know, that's from the -- those that you think of initially from restaurants and local attractions, also the cab drivers and laundry and the construction workers who set up trade shows, the list goes on. tourism is a significant driver in every state. but this is particularly true in nevada where senator rosen mentioned hospitality supports one in four nevada jobs. two and a half times the national average. the las vegas convention of visitors authority is unique organization and we are the only entity in a major city in the united states to serve as both the destination marketing organization as well as the convention and visitors bureau. as with many convention centers throughout the country, our mission certainly expanded over
the last year and that includes doing what we could to help the community respond to the pandemic. we're the state's largest covid test center, we're currently the largest vaccine site. we are the fema distribution center, we provided space for courtrooms, for eviction assistance, we have space in the community, needed space, and we were happy and proud to be a part of all of those efforts. we recently purchased the las vegas monorail system after it was forced to close due to the pandemic. we needed to preserve this important transportation system. through the last year we finished the construction of 1.4 million square foot expansion, and you may have seen last week showcased the first commercial application of elon musk, innovative transportation system, which now runs underneath the campus of our convention center. we are looking forward to both
recovery and return to prosperity and we do hope to be able to speed that up. people in this industry need that. we they need their jobs back. our customers need to travel, frankly. they need to see their family and friends, they haven't seen in the last year. and they need to meet a potential new customer, to experience a new culture or frankly just to set aside what has happened over the last year and get away for a few days. first step, part of the recovery, as you all mentioned, will be moving beyond the health crisis and continuing the vaccination process is the key to making that happen. we need to get to the point now where socially distancing is no longer necessary. like many destinations, las vegas doesn't work well without
a crowd. and we are optimistic that we are on the cusp of that. we think that as the ability to happen soon. once beyond the health crisis, our industry will be faced with a situation that is roughly equivalent to the depths of the great recession. that will be where we are once we get past the health crisis and are just simply dealing with the economic fallout as a result. domestic and leisure travel will recover first. and it is already doing so. we're seeing strength there. but business travel and international travel was -- will certainly take longe -- receives a good portion of our funding through a fixed percentage of room tax and it is a good indicator of the health of our tourism and hospitality industry. typically we would receive $300 million a year. and our current fiscal year,
which ends in june, we will receive about 100. about a third of our normal revenue. we're projecting next year that we will receive about 70% of our normal room tax revenue. so we will show improvement, but it is only about halfway to where we need to be over the next 12 months. i'll mention the transportation and transportation infrastructure in all forms will be a key to recovering fully and having real growth from there. i was honored to serve on the national advisory committee on travel and tourism infrastructure two years ago, the report we issued then was relatively brief, and contained a focused set of recommendations, key recommendation was to create a national travel infrastructure strategy, we have a national freight plan, we don't have a full national travel plan. corridors of regional
significance need to be a focus of that strategy. in our state, i-15, one such corridor, reflects states that runs directly through from california to montana. as well as neighboring states such as wyoming and colorado. and the importance of that corridor can be seen in the makeup of this committee, where half of this committee represents states affected by i-15. so we look forward to working with you, chair rosen, on the formation of the i-15 caucus in congress and we thank you for your help. with that, and again i would like to thank you, ranking member scott, all the members of the committee, for the opportunity to be before you here today, thank you for all you have done and all you will do for the travel industry. >> -- regional portfolio
president and mgm resorts international. mr. perez oversees the strategic direction for eight of mgm's resorts properties. mr. perez is an industry veteran with 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry. mr. perez, i recognize you for your opening remarks. >> good afternoon. thank you chairwoman rosen, chairwoman cantwell, ranking member scott and ranking member wicker and members of the subcommittee. my name is jorge perez, i oversee the eight regional domestic properties for mgm resorts outside of las vegas. i appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony on behalf of our organization and to share some of our experiences during this incredibly challenging year. mgm resorts international is a global company with 29 unique hotels and gaming destinations across eight states.
last year was one of the most difficult years ever faced by our industry, by our company, by our employees. mgm first felt the impacts of the pandemic at our properties in -- which closed in february 2020. and shortly there after in march 2020 our regional properties were closed, and eventually las vegas properties, leaving the strip closed for the very first time in its history. like many we face a number of difficult decisions including having to furlough a significant portion of our workforce, but during this time of great hardship, our company and team members sought ways to demonstrate care and compassion for one another and for the most impacted in our communities. we provided extended health benefits for employee and families. we dispersed over $15.5 million to help employees during the pandemic via our employee emergency grant fund.
and within days of shutting down, we donated hundreds of thousands of meals to people in need. and mgm helped to procure much needed ppe for our medical professionals including masks, gowns and gloves. we continue to focus on our commitment to the communities that have welcomed us, to give generationally to generously to our neighbors. while it has been a year of hardship, it has been a year of innovation and change. we reopen our properties, we overhauled our operations. mgm implemented comprehensive protocols to through our safety plan which included installation of plexiglass dividers, hand washing stations across our resorts, digital innovations including touchless menus in our restaurants and bars, the ability for guests to check in, utilizing mobile phone, and enhanced hvac protocols, temperature testing for team
members and our guests, and on site rapid covid-19 tests, just to name a few. as the world starts to return to normal, we appreciate the continued leadership and support of the federal government. the coronavirus relief bill passed by congress helped so many around the country. our furloughed employees were extended unemployment benefits, our small business partners through the paycheck protection program, and mgm through the employee retention tax credit which helped provide extended health benefits for our employees and their families. notwithstanding these efforts, the company's travel and tourism industries and our workers have been hit disproportionately hard. facing wide travel spending was down 500 billion, costing the u.s. economy about $1.1 trillion. at the current pace the travel industry is not expected to fully recover until 2025, but we are hopeful the recovery will
arrive much sooner. there are key political initiatives that can help our industry achieve a speedier recovery and in nearly 16 million american workers that employed before the pandemic. one of the biggest policy priorities for the traveling tourism industry is the bipartisan legislation introduced by senator catherine cortez masto and senator kevin cramer, the hospitality and commerce job recovery act of 2021. which provides various tax credits to simulate our industry. additionally with assist convention and trade show sector which disproportionately impacted and is so crucial to the industry's recovery. we also welcome the safe and science-based easy government restrictions which will permit us to bring back more amenities to a greater number of guests alouing us to bring back more of our employees. we understand the need to remain
diligent and maintain our focus on our employees and our guests. vaccination is critically important tool in helping to end the pandemic and accelerate our community's economic recovery. we're committed to doing anything question to help get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible by removing barriers to access and bringing vaccination clinics directly to our employees. it has been a difficult year, there is great reason, cautious optimism and we're seeing signs of recovery. we at mgm resorts await the ability to welcome and entertain the world without restriction and to help our guests celebrate life to its fullest. thank you for the opportunity to present testimony today. >> thank you, mr. perez. testifying next is torre emerson barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the u.s. travel association. miss barnes leads the u.s. travel association government's relations, policy development,
communications, marketing and research teams. miss barnes is here with us today in person and i recognize you for your opening remarks. >> thank you, chair rosen. ranking member scott, and members of the subcommittee. good afternoon. i am torre emerson barnes executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the u.s. travel association where the only association that represents all sectors of the travel industry and i'm very happy to be here in person and grateful for the leadership that you're putting forward here today. before the pandemic one 1$.1 trillion in travel spending generated $2.6 trillion economic impact and supported 16 million american jobs. this came to a halt at the onset of the pandemic. last year travel spending fell 42%, costing the economy $500 billion in lost travel spend. international in bound visitation declined 76%, and business travel spending fell 70%.
additionally, 5.6 million travel supported jobs were lost accounting for 65% of all jobs lost to the pandemic. at the state level, nevada, florida and washington state suffered travel spending declines of more than 40%, travel spending fell 26% in mississippi. currently the travel industry is expected to take five years to recover from this crisis. and that's far too long to wait. while we expect domestic leisure travel to recover more quickly, a full rebound is not certain and it won't make up for losses in other segments. professional meeting events, the largest generator of spending revenue, are still restrictioned in many states. this sector is projected to take four years to recover. and with our borders still closed, international travel to the u.s. will take as many as five years to return to prepandemic levels. with the uncertainty around reopening it could be even
longer. u.s. travel has identified four key priorities to restore travel demand, accelerate rehiring and shorten the recovery timeline. first, we must safely and quickly reopen international travel. we have the right protects in place to safely reopen, but we don't have clear public health benchmarks or a definitive timeline to return to open our borders. u.s. travel urged the biden administration to develop by this may a road map and a timeline for lifting entry restrictions with the goal of reopening international travel by july. we can start by establishing public health corridors between the u.s. and other low risk countries such as the united kingdom. second, the cdc should provide clear guidance to lift restrictions and safely restart professional meetings and events. nearly all sectors of the economy have clear guidelines to allow them to reopen amid the pandemic. business meetings are distinct
from other mass gatherings due to the level of control that can be implemented. and should not remain closed while the rest of the economy is given the green light to reopen. third, congress should enact the hospitality and commerce jobs recovery act, to spur demand and accelerate rehiring. this bill would increase travel demand among low to middle income families by providing targeted and temporary refundable tax credits to travel, while also helping to boost demand, spending and rehiring. the bill would also provide refundable tax credits to encourage professional meetings and events to restart. further, oxford economics estimates that enacting this bill would shorten the recovery timeline from five years to just three. while creating an incremental 1.5 million jobs and generating nearly$600 billion in spending. fourth, congress should provide temporary emergency funding for brand usa. america's destination marketing organization. over the last seven years, brand
usa's marketing efforts generated a 26 to 1 return on investment for the u.s. economy. however, the drastic decline in collections due to international travel restrictions combined with scarce private sector contributions during the economic crisis have decimated the program's funding. if brand usa is unable to continue its important work, international travel recovery will be severely limited. specific policies can also be implemented to improve the industry's long-term competitiveness and ensure that we come back stronger than ever. these policies include passing the visit america act, which senator sullivan introduced last year, to elevate travel leadership in the federal government. this would strengthen the commerce department's role in coordinating federal travel policies and set consistent national goals and strategies to boost travel exports. finally, investing in our country's infrastructure will
help facilitate travel and better prepare us to welcome back visitors from around the world. by prioritizing infrastructure, investments now, the u.s. can emerge from the pandemic and rebuild the travel industry with stronger, more connected systems than ever before. we need the federal government to enact the right policies to ensure all sectors of travel can recover as quickly as possible and any delay in reopening any segment will only hurt our economy further. thank you again for inviting the travel industry to testify today on such a devastating economic impact of the pandemic, and i welcome your questions. thank you. >> thank you, ms. barnes. our final witness is carol dover, president and ceo of the florida restaurant and lodging association. ms. dover also serves as a member of several boards including the board of directors for the national restaurant association, counsel of state restaurant associations and international society of hotel
association executives. ms. dover, i recognize you via webex for your opening remarks. >> thank you, chair cantwell. ranking member wicker and subcommittee chair rosen and ranking member scott and other distinguished members, for the opportunity to be here to represent florida's hospitality industry. for more than 26 years i have led the florida restaurant and lodging association, frla, which represents over 10,000 members from the biggest names in hotels, restaurants, theme parks to small, independent operators and suppliers. hospitality and tourism is the largest industry in florida, and it is the economic engine of our state. in 2019 a record-setting 131 million visitors added nearly $97 billion to florida's economy. tourism was florida's largest employer with over 1.5 million
employees. before covid, our nearly $112 billion hospitality industry was booming with hundreds of new hotels, thousands of new restaurants, and we were on track to set new records. when covid hit we were shell-shocked. more than 62% of florida's hospitality employees were furloughed or laid off. hotels, restaurants, bars, cruise lines, theme parks shut down. air travel stopped. business conferences and large events were cancelled. the frla went into overdrive to help our members survive, interpreting executive orders and serving as an information clearing house. we helped our workers get ppe and other covid supplies. we were heavily engaged with our state and federal leaders and are grateful for the support of senators scott and rubio. we were blessed to work closely with governor desantis by assisting to create guidelines
and safety protocols to get our industry reopened. there were many creative solutions that our industry embarked upon from opening groc-eraunts to picking up dining tables in parking lots. alcohol-to-go became a critical revenue source for restaurants, and we are working now with the florida legislature to try to make that permanent. we worked with our national association partners on federal relief packages that have been critical to our survival. our industry is also facing historic workforce challenges. although we are allowed to operate at 100% capacity in florida, we can't find staff. simply put, we're competing with state and federal unemployment benefits. workers tell us that they make too much money on unemployment to return to work, so businesses are forced to limit capacity, shorten their hours without adequate staff to serve guests. florida is open for business, but we're desperate for workers.
covid has decimated the u.s. tourism industry which suffered more than $500 billion in pandemic-related losses. half of the u.s. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty this year, and hotel employment will not come back until at least 2023. business travel, the single largest source of hotel revenue, will remain down 85%, and it is going to take years to recover. thousands of hotels have closed and have been foreclosed. florida had the second highest hotel job loss in the nation behind california. restaurants have also been shattered, from nationwide shutdowns to ban on indoor dining to misleading claims about the safety of restaurants, 2020 ended with total sales that were $240 billion less than projections. nationally, more than 8 million restaurant employees were laid off or furloughed and 600,000 of
them were in florida. more than 110,000 restaurants closed permanently, including over 10,000 of those in florida. nationally, the restaurant industry lost nearly 2.5 million jobs. we are hopeful that ppp, tax credits and the recently passed restaurant revitalization fund, have been huge victories. the rrf will provide $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants who desperately need it. thank you, ranking member wicker and committee member sinema for your bipartisan work for creating the restaurant act to keep us open. travel, tourism and the hospitality industries have faced the worst years in history. in florida we understand emergencies, but there was no playbook for covid-19 and nothing has ever tested us like this. we love creating memorable
experiences for guests that keep coming back, but we need for them to be able to come back. international visitors, cruises, business travel, we are working to rebuild this industry that we love so dearly. we are hospitality strong, but we have no problem asking for your help, and we still desperately need your support as we rebuild. thank you, chair, and i will be happy to take any questions that you may have. >> well, thank you so much for your opening remarks. i really appreciate everyone's thoughtful opening remarks because senator scott and i believe that we must get americans traveling again. so as we've discussed several times, travel and tourism, of course, are the life blood of nevada's economy. covid-19, like you all have said, has taken a toll on our workers across this nation, on our businesses and on our communities. but with more americans getting vaccinated and the cdc giving the green light for safe travel,
there is a light at the end of the tunnel. but to fully recover and bring back the jobs lost, the industry, we must bring it back to pre-pandemic levels. we need to get americans and the world traveling again. that means making sure that people from across the country and across the globe know that our tourism destinations, well, they are open for business. so, mr. perez, can you talk about the importance of out-of-state and international travelers to mgm's success and that of its workforce, and i would say all of our hotels and the success of its workforce, please? >> sure, madam chair. let me start off first with the regional properties. you know, we are in seven different states, some in the northeast, mid-atlantic and down senator wicker's neck of the woods, down in mississippi.
for those properties, most of our business comes from an hour's drive and we were a bit more insulated, barring the closure obviously, but we were a bit more insulated than las vegas because the barriers of travel were just easier. you could jump in your car and not have to deal with airfare and that sort of thing. las vegas, and i will parallel that to with we have two semi destinations resorts, one of which is in biloxi, mississippi. that property also was hampered more as compared to the other seven as an example. it behaved a little more like las vegas. also in atlantic city, that had similar recovery as near las vegas, but nowhere near as devastating. to your point, and you have heard the testimony from the panelists, getting customers comfortable with air travel primarily is paramount. it is going to take some time to
get international travel to come back in earnest, particularly in las vegas, which is vitally important. we know those customers stay longer. they enjoy our restaurants, they enjoy our casinos, they enjoy our shows, they spend quite a bit on retail, and they're vitally important to nevada and the las vegas economies. so anything that we can do certainly to reduce those barriers would be incredibly helpful, especially for las vegas. >> thank you. mr. hill, i would like to ask you a similar question, but really about our conventions. we know that conventions, business travel is a life blood of not just las vegas but sole other cities across the country. so how do you feel about what can we do to bring that eco-tourism back? what do we need and its importance to our communities? >> well, thank you, chair rosen. ranking member scott earlier
mentioned the connection between tourism and economic development, and i would just add that really tourism is economic development, too. it brings money in from outside of our state, into our state. it creates those, you know, 26% of the jobs in nevada. it is the economic engine for our state and domestic and international tourists are what make that possible. back, you know, a year ago or a little longer ago when we were trying to get from 87% room occupancy, 90%, that concept seemed maybe not as important as what we went through when we shut down for ten weeks and didn't have any visitors in nevada. as you pointed out, we suffered
the worst unemployment rate of any state in history during that period of time. so it is -- our domestic and international travelers are what make this state go, and we need to do everything we can to allow them to return. i know everyone is. from a meetings and convention perspective, we are excited to have i think the first large trade show in the united states returning to our convention center in early june, the world of concrete by informa, a publicly traded firm that is one of the biggest customers of las vegas. it is a show that typically has 50,000, 60,000 attendees. we don't think it will be that size, but it will be a major show and we look forward not only to that show returning but it serving as evidence and an
example of how to do this right, and we're excited about that. international visitation is a big component of visitation, both from a business traveler's standpoint as well as a leisure traveler. we enjoy about 15% in a normal year of visitation from our international fans, and that has been almost completely shutdown and has not really started to recover at this point. as ms. barnes mentioned, working to get those visitors back, working on a method so that they can have confidence in their travel plans and be able to confidently make those trips we think is critically important. >> thank you. now recognize ranking member
scott. >> thank you, chair rosen. i want to thank each of the witnesses for your testimony. ms. dover, in your written testimony you state that the travel and tourism industry is facing historic labor shortages which could significantly restrict the industry from recovering from the severe downturn. could you share the reasons behind them? would you be able to give examples from your members as well as what they've done to mitigate this issue, and just go ahead and talk about some of the challenges your members are facing with regard to labor shortages. >> thank you very much, senator scott. so as i stated in my other statement that we're in competition with our unemployment system, so many people are making more money staying home and we're having a really tough time getting people to even want to apply for jobs. we have been hosting job fairs. some of our members are even offering bonuses, and people are still not showing up to apply for the jobs. just a couple of examples,
senator, that we're hearing from our members, i have a member yesterday who was telling me that they haven't had their garbage picked up in almost a week and so this is bigger than just the hotel and restaurant industry. the waste management industry, they don't have drivers. we got notice from our food distribution companies and our beverage companies that they may not be receiving their products in a timely manner because they too don't have enough drivers applying for jobs. so one of the things that we are in hopes is that we can find between both state and federal, clearly unemployment is important for many people, but there are so many jobs available right now that if we could go back to a system where you used to have to show that you had applied and been turned down for several jobs, three jobs i believe is what it was in
florida, that if we could reverse some of those mandates, then i believe that we could begin to see people want to go back to work. so we are desperate, and anything that you all can do in congress to help us relieve this burden, i hear from my colleagues all across the country that it is not just a florida issue, that it is everywhere. so thank you for asking and allowing me the opportunity to talk to you about our very critical labor shortage. >> so, ms. dover, so if somebody -- if an employer tells an employee that they have a job opening, and my understanding nationwide we have 7.4 million job openings. if an employer says they have a job opening, does the employee -- are they able to continue on unemployment or do they -- are they required to come back to work? >> well, they're not required, senator, is my understanding to come back to work. they can make the decision. what we're trying to also do education to many of the people who are not coming back to work is to remind them that these
jobs will not be available forever. i mean we have all -- you have heard us all today on the panel talk about the need to rebound, and we will rebound. we are a resilient country, and we will rebound. but one day these jobs that people are turning down won't be available anymore. so we're reminding people to take these jobs while they're available. unemployment in florida is already down to a little over 4%. so it is not long before, you know, we're going to be in a very low unemployment and nearly an unemployable. so hopefully we can get people to see that we have great jobs available. florida is the tourism mecca. we have just -- hopefully, people will see the importance of coming back to work. >> thank you, ms. dover. ms. barnes, we've seen the cruise industry at a standstill under the current cdc restrictions with no timeline
for return. what impact has it had, not only on the cruise industry but throughout the travel and tourism industries? >> thank you for the question. you know, we very much are supportive of the legislation that you and senator sullivan introduced today along with senator rubio because we really do think that the entire industry needs to have clear guidelines on how to reopen with the timeline and a date certain to do so. really, we are normally used to welcoming over 13 million travelers via cruise ship annually to the united states, and the impact that that has on ports and destinations throughout the country, restaurants, attractions, folks that are being able to sell gifts for their families at those ports and in those cities. so the impact really has been quite significant, and we really believe that every segment of the industry should be able
again to reopen and that it isn't fair not to have clear guidelines. so we hope that the cdc will be able to put forward clear guidelines in the immediate term because the economic consequences really are significant, not only to florida but to the other countries like alaska, louisiana, california, washington and other states across the country. >> thank you. thank you, chair rosen. >> thank you, senator scott. i would like to next recognize via webex, senator klobuchar. >> thank you very much, chair rosen. thank you as well to senator scott. i am really excited to hear from our witnesses today. i know that this has been such a tough time for tourism, but having this hearing couldn't be more timely. i have long been involved in this issue, from the time that i had the job of chairing the tourism subcommittee and
commerce. i am proud of the work that we've done together with some of the witnesses on brand usa and the work that you are doing today. i guess i would start there because i know that senator rosen asked a question and talked about the loss at least of international travel on the mgm resorts and also really everywhere in the country, which is part of the reason we were so proud of the work we've done on brand usa, which finally allowed us to have an even playing field when it came to promoting our own country. this has been a real gut punch for the tourism industry obviously. we had to shutdown the borders for international tourists. but as we see this, as we call it on lake superior, the lighthouse on the horizon as opposed to the light at the end of the tunnel, with the vaccine and what is happening, ms. barnes, in your testimony you highlight that if international travel is not reopened soon a total of 1.1
million american jobs and $262 billion in spending will be lost by the end of 2021, and that temporary emergency funding for brand usa is needed. can you talk about what resources you think are needed? >> sure. thank you, senator, for your question and for your tremendous leadership as the chair of the travel and tourism caucus in the senate. we are very grateful for your leadership, in particular as we sought to reauthorize brand usa back in late 2019, which feels like a decade ago. >> except you must admit we were smart to do it early. we got it done a year early thanks to senator blunt and other things. >> yes. thank you. so as i noted, international travel has declined by 76% and right now we are looking at a five-year time horizon for recovery, but we know we can shorten that timeline and just
in the losses for 2021 if we are able to reopen international travel by july. that can stymie 40% of the expected losses this year. we really need brand usa that is currently having a funding challenge because of the lack of international travel. usually the esta fee is coming in in a robust fashion and capped at $100 million which goes to brand usa, but because that money isn't coming in, because the international borders are closed, we really need an emergency funding mechanism. what we think is about $250 million in an appropriation, usually the $100 million that comes in on international fees is matched by the private sector, but, unfortunately, due to the decimation of the private sector those fees are unlikely to be captured. so, again, if the appropriations
committee could put forward $250 million, we think they will be able to do their work to bring back international travelers and make sure that 26-to-1 return on investment is provided. i will just note since we were talking about exports that in 2019 the tourism industry provided a $59 billion export for the country. so it really is important beyond just domestic funding. >> very good. then another bill that senator blunt and i have introduced, the protecting tourism in the united states act, directs the commerce department in consultation with the u.s. travel and tourism board and key federal agencies to develop a plan to help the tourism industry recover, simply because, you know, i think that as things are getting a little better, their ramp up is going to be slower by virtue of the nature of the customers here and where they come from and how they can travel and other
industries. i guess i will turn to you with this, mr. perez. by the way, i also want to mention the great leadership of chair rosen as well as senator cortez masto on these issues with nevada. but one report found that in 2020 more than 670,000 hotel industry jobs, and in your testimony you note that mgm resorts had to furlough 60,000 employees as a result of the pandemic. can you speak to how long the hotel industry can sustain itself on the current federal economic relief, particularly regarding your workforce? >> thank you very much, senator, for the question. the employees are coming back, not only in las vegas but also to our regional properties, but they are doing so when the customers have started to come back. what we've seen clearly as
vaccinations, shots in arms are becoming more and more pervasive, things have turned around relatively quickly. the question for us is how sustainable is that because it happened as, you know, we were leaving the winter, if you will, entering better weather and along with the stimulus. so there's a little bit of noise, but the way this is -- i apologize. i apologize. can you repeat the question for a second? i'm sorry. >> no, it was just -- it is okay because i'm probably out of time and my colleagues are probably glad that you forgot the question. >> no. >> it was mostly about how long the hotel industry can sustain itself. >> yes. what i will say and i will just end it really quickly, right now it is a bit of a challenge,
particularly in las vegas and a few of our other regional properties to find labor for the reasons mentioned earlier. you know, as our customers return we feel that with time we can get our employees back and do this in the right form and right fashion, but it is a process. it is a process. >> exactly. very good. we hope you are working as well with carlson companies in minnesota. we have a -- we're proud of the work they're doing. thank you. >> thank you, senator klobuchar. next i would like to recognize in person senator sullivan. >> thank you, madam chair. i really appreciate this committee. i think it is exciting. i think it is going to be an important committee, very bipartisan, all of these issues. i'm looking forward to your and senator scott's leadership on this. ms. barnes, i wanted to ask you, you mentioned my visit america act, which is very bipartisan
with senator schatz and senator king. one thing it would do, it would establish an assistant secretary of commerce for travel and tourism. as you and i have discussed, many countries have cabinet officials in charge of tourism. we don't even have an assistant secretary. now, i'm not a big government guy, but as you know when you are in the debates within the federal agencies, you need someone, senate confirmed, to stand up for this huge part of our economy which goes across so many states. can you share with me a little bit of your perspective of the importance of this act that passed out of this committee very strongly, every senator but one voted for it. we're going to try to move it again quickly this year. >> yes. thank you for your question and for your leadership on this issue. you're right. we're the only one of the top 30 global destinations that doesn't have a cabinet-level person and/or an arm that actually goes
out and promotes travel. that's why we have brand usa. so we believe very much that the leadership is needed. we have been very pleased with secretary romando's interest in how important travel and tourism is to the industry, but obviously she has many things to focus on. so we couldn't agree with you more, that we would like to see your bill introduced again quickly and passed, and we've already also raised with the secretary the importance of elevating this position. so, i'm hopeful we would be able to move it forward. it is also something we have talked to the national travel advisory board at the national tourism office at the department of commerce about and believe with this type of leadership to really be able to draw that inner agency group together, that we can set that national strategy to reopen, not only domestic travel but bring back international travel, bring back meetings and events. we need the whole of the industry focused upon and having
a cabinet level position would absolutely help do that. >> great. thank you. my next question is for you and ms. dover. i want to talk a little bit about the cruise ship industry. you know, a lot of times the industry gets attacked for certain issues, but what i really want to talk about is how important this industry is to small businesses, whether in florida or in alaska. if you can give us a sense on that, but also, ms. barnes, i saw that the u.s. travel association recently called for the cdc to end its ban on cruise ship travel in america. that's what our bill, senator scott and my bill, the cruise act that we introduced today, would do, and they need the guidance. look, the cdc does a good job on the science. they've had a tough year, an important agency. my state has worked hard dealing with the health issues. we've been the number one state
in the country throughout the pandemic in terms of testing per capita, in terms of the vaccination rates per capita. we are proud of that in alaska. fortunately, one of the lowest death rates per capita, but my state's economy is getting crushed. oil and gas, no help from the biden administration there, which is anti-oil and gas. commercial fishing, tourism as it has hurt so many industries. senator murkowski and i had a meeting with the cdc director a couple of weeks ago, with all due respect to her she didn't really have a clue on these issues. we had another follow-up meeting with her recently. she gave us a lot of good news, all of the guidance on the cruise ships was going to be coming out at the same time. there was going to be needs for new cdc approvals, cruising in america and alaska by mid-july is what she thought we could do. none of that turned out to be true.
so that is o for 2 on meetings with u.s. senators. i think somebody on her staff needs to be held accountable. she is obviously getting really, really bad information from people, but it is really disappointing. can you, and, ms. dover, if you have a view on it, give us a sense why you think it is important to get cruising again, particularly when cruise ship industry executives are coming together saying, hey, we will have it, we will put an escrow account in if there's funding issues, we will make sure everybody on the ships are vaccinated. there's a whole host of things that can happen that we can do this safely while still taking into account the economy and the health impacts, let's face it, of americans who are out of work because of this ban. >> sure. thank you for the question. again, we really believe that no sector of the travel industry should be unable to be able to reopen. one u.s. job is created just
with 30 cruisers. so 30 people on a ship equals one u.s. job. so that is a significant contribution to the u.s. economy and, quite frankly, we think that there needs to be clear guidelines. >> one second. >> we can reopen this summer. am i over time? oh, okay. sorry. so, i'm sorry, but to finish we do believe that we need clear guidelines. very much support the legislation you introduced today. we also don't believe that there should be a vaccine requirement to travel, but we do think it is an important layer and we are very much advocating folks get vaccinated. >> ms. dover, do you have a view on any of this? sorry, madam chair, to go over, but i know it is important to go over. >> thank you very much, senator sullivan, to the question. to torey barnes, she answered it very well. to add on to what she said, in florida we have over 115,000 jobs that were relying on the cruise industry. the trickle-down effect of what
you have mentioned, hotel rooms, restaurants, retail, gas, it is suffering in those areas of florida that rely so heavily on the cruise industry. so not to mention what an economic engine it is to our state. so i would agree and echo everything that torey barnes said about we don't believe that maybe vaccinations are necessary. we know that the cruise line industry has been meeting around the clock to put in safety standards. there's nothing more important to them than the safety and health and the welfare of the people who want to cruise. so no industry is closed. florida has been open for business for many months, and we certainly believe that our cruise line friends should be allowed to open up for business and get out in the waters and start enjoying life again. >> thank you, madam chair. >> thank you. next i would like to recognize
our chair, senator cantwell. before i do, i just want to thank her for helping us to organize this committee. it is our inaugural hearing, and we look forward to just doing great work here. we appreciate you allowing us to start on this mission. senator cantwell. >> thank you, chair rosen. thank you to you and the ranking member, i appreciate both of your's interest in this subject of tourism. you are right, i couldn't be more excited about a committee that's called tourism, trade and export promotion because it is pretty much the state of washington and very much appreciate the two of you bringing an intense focus to the tourism aspect amongst the other responsibilities here. i wanted to ask our witness, i think, ms. barnes, you. senator scott and i introduced legislation on what i just call another layer of infrastructure. you guys have all articulated in
your questions, and many of our colleagues, about the important economic consequence of tourism. if it is such an important aspect of the economy, why aren't we doing more to build layers of protection into the system that gives us more data and information. i traveled to china many years ago, and at the airport went through a screening as it related -- i didn't really know i was going through a screening but i was going through a screening on temperature checks. so we see small businesses all over the united states doing this now and doing it successfully. what do you think of getting the infrastructure at airports so that this is something that we can, again, just give more certainty and predictability to the system by just putting this kind of infrastructure in place? >> we think as it relates to technology that there's a lot of good that can be done from biometric touchless solutions that you can opt into to additional layers within the airport. i think that, you know, as we -- the travel industry put forward a guidance early in may of last
year and it has had the most, you know, great health and safety standards in hotels and airports, in airplanes and every different mode of transportation as well as in every segment of the travel ecosystem. so we very much support anything that can help to continue safety, the health and safety, first and foremost. again, we don't think there should be a vaccine requirement to travel. we do think it is another important layer, but there are things, as you note, temperature checks and other systems that can be piloted perhaps to see how they can help the system move forward. one of the things we want to also be careful though is that we don't put anything in place that we can't ease as things get better with the health crisis because we don't want to be in ten years from now, you know, like we were taking off our shoes still after 9/11. we want to make sure that we
have something that is adjustable as we move forward from the pandemic. >> i think senator scott and i are talking about something that's basic infrastructure. so the concept is airports, or even just international destinations would have the kind of technology where you would just walk through and detect whether someone had a temperature or not. so i think we get a lot of pushback from people saying, how many people have they caught at international airports. well, i'm not sure we've caught anybody lately out at seatac on a national security issue as it relates to the tsa lines, but i'm pretty sure we are keeping the tsa lines. so these things are lines of deterrents, and i think all of you are articulating how important the tourism economy is to us. i think thinking long term about what other challenges we face, i think it is a pretty cost effective technology that's been used around the world. so hopefully we will be able to get our colleagues to do the same here and better protect, you know, the traveling public and focus on what we can do to
give confidence. so, thank you, madam chair. i appreciate calling you that. >> thank you very much, senator cantwell, chair cantwell. next i would like to recognize via webex senator sinema. >> thank you, madam chair. thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us today. you know, tourism is such an important industry for my state of arizona. in 2019 arizona's tourism industry welcomed more than 46 million overnight visitors which generated over $25 billion in direct travel spending and helped support state and local government tax revenue. the covid-19 pandemic has been very difficult for many arizona communities, small business owners and arizonans who work in the tourism industry. in 2020 spending by domestic and international travelers declined by 35%, hurting many local businesses and putting many arizonans out of work. according to arizona lodging and tourism association, covid-19
has wiped out ten years of job growth in areas of tourism and unfortunately we are not out of the woods yet. although 2021 has seen a recent uptick relative to 2020, we are still nowhere near the 2019 numbers and that means many arizonans and arizona businesses are still struggling. given the significant challenges for arizonans, i will continue to work with my colleagues on the subcommittee to develop bipartisan solutions to these issues and help get arizona's tourism industry back to work. my first question is for ms. dover. many arizona restaurants or small businesses that rely on travelers to support their operations, as you know, i worked with my friend senator roger wicker to offer the restaurants act which is bipartisan legislation to provide structural relief to local and independent restaurants, and our effort became lost as part of the american rescue plan. soon restaurants will be able to apply for $26 billion of relief. many restaurants received
assistance from the paycheck protection program. can you explain how it is different from ppp and how this is different from those funds? >> thank you for the question. i want to thank you all of you for support you have given the industry in passing the ppp, because all of those were critical in getting the industry propped up. but one of the things about your new restaurant revitalization act is that they're going to look at minorities and small businesses and some who may have not been able to apply in the first go-round. i can tell you that we're already hearing great concerns that that money may be gone in a very short order, so we are quite concerned about that. but we -- you know, we represent just as many small, independent or more operators as we do large, and so many of our small
businesses are struggling. so but for the first ppp round and now the restaurant revitalization act, they would note be able to keep their doors open for hire back their employees. so i want to thank you for that. the employee retention tax credit is critical also to our industry. we want to thank you for all of the efforts that you put forth, especially in extending that because it was crucial to our employers in our industry. >> thank you. my next question is for ms. barnes. according to a recent report by the american hotel and lodging association, half of u.s. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty in 2021 and hotel employment is not expected to rebound until 2023. as you know, arizona is a prime destination for large business and group travel, and according to the arizona lodging and tourism association business and group travel accounts for more
than half of annual hotel revenue and estimates show these travelers may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. can you describe how business and group travel is so important to the tourism industry and how the decline in this type of travel has hurt arizona's small businesses? >> thank you, senator, for the question. i would echo carol dover's comments about gratitude for the hard work that you have done on the restaurant act and many other issues on behalf of the industry. as you note, 60% of business travel has declined in arizona, and we think that it is really important that we have clear guidelines for reopening business meetings and events and that we really differentiate them from mass gatherings. we think this is absolutely critical, that at other parts of the industry are able to open and other parts of the economy are able to open, the majority of revenue that comes into the industry really is from that
business travel. so 40% to 60% of revenues come from a hotel perspective and business travel, and when you think about it right now, while we're seeing that leisure market really pick up and that will help for certain weeks of the year and the weekends, that monday through thursday travel really isn't happening right now. until we open business travel up, it is not going to. so the thing that we need to do is beyond just opening up business meetings and events. we need to increase those gathering limitations for structured meetings. they can be held in a safe way. there are layers of protection, and as we have more and more folks vaccinated that should be even more possible. so we hope that the cdc can put forth the clear guidelines to increase those gathering limitations and to open up business meetings and events. again, 70% decline year over year is just not acceptable or sustainable into the future.
>> all right. thank you. madam chair, i see my time has expired. thank you for hosting this hearing. >> thank you, senator sinema. next i would like to recognize senator hickenlooper via webex. >> thank you, madam chair. i think this is a remarkably enlightening and informative session. first, i wanted to ask mr. hill, when we see the importance to cities and regions and states of convention business and how in many cases it is the first place that a business executive will come to a different place, a different city and, you know, maybe five years later they will open an office there, it is vitally important for that, not to mention all of the restaurant and hotel business that accompanies those visits.
you are just as much captive to the loss of confidence as all the restaurants and hotels and musical venues, all of the parts of hospitality. i thought you actually might have the best perspective on how you are thinking of trying to rebuild that confidence in your consumers who are a little more educated in many cases, but certainly are subject to the same fears and cautions as the rest of the american public. >> thank you for the question, senator, and certainly for your support of our industry. you're right. the confidence of businesspeople, leisure travelers, both is critical to the return. we are seeing that as people get vaccinated, their confidence returns, starts to return because of that process.
frankly, those who have chosen not to be vaccinated may have some of that confidence as well. so the vaccination process is just exceptionally important. we encourage that to move forward, at least as quickly as it has. if we can increase that, that's great. that's critical. getting past the health crisis is what will really restore confidence. frankly, the messaging from our elected officials is important, too. consistency there. it is certainly important to have communicated the need to be careful, the need to be responsible and safe and healthy, but as that takes hold,
messaging around "it is time to go back and travel" needs i think to be heard by all of our constituents out there. also, you know, a lot of people think of marketing as not necessarily generating information and providing our potential customers with that information, but particularly in this environment having the ability to provide that information is really important. frankly, senator cortez masto's act bill is designed to help with that. >> yes, yes. great. thank you. great answer, and i appreciate that. ms. barnes, i wanted to ask you also, again coming from colorado and having spent, you know, almost 20 years in hospitality and tourism, we have a big space for outdoor recreation and in many cases they were not as
negatively impacted as some of the other forms of hospitality and tourism, just because it is easier to social distance when you are outside hiking and things like that. but i do think that we have seen disruption in the trends. i was wondering if you got a sense on a national basis of what changes we have seen both in outdoor recreation but in total tourism, especially concerned about outdoor records. which of the changes and disruptions are going to become permanent and which ones are more likely to bounceback, and is that a good thing or bad thing? >> thank you for the question. you know, we are seeing and have seen a significant interest in visiting our national parks and going to beaches, and definitely being in those outdoor recreation environments. that's something that in particular started last summer and certain destinations fared
better than others because not everyone has the same thing to offer, but i think it will be a trend for sometime because we will continue to see folks want to be in outdoor environments. however, it is really important we bring back the whole of the economy and diversify that by a more wholistic opening of the country and of all of the experiences that all of the states and destinations have to offer throughout this country. i would say with regards to outdoor recreation, you know, a theme that has been important is making sure that we do have our national parks are sustainable for the future, that we are cognizant of some over visitation trends. i think that there will be a return to making sure that reare cognizant and careful with our public lands moving forward.
but overall i expect that the outdoor environments will be here to stay for some period of time and folks will welcome those opportunities to get out and explore. >> great. thank you very much. i see i'm over my time, so, madam chair, i will yield back the floor to you. thank you. >> thank you, senator. i believe next via webex is senator blackburn. >> yes. thank you, madam chairman. i appreciate this so much and i appreciate the time and the attention that is focused on this. ms. barnes, let me come to you first. international travel. in your testimony you talked about the cdc, d.o.t., dhs, coming together to have a data-driven risk-based roadmap
by may to rescind international inbound travel restrictions by july 2021. what are you hearing from the agencies right now? is there any consensus on a timeline for both the inbound and outbound, these restrictions that we are hearing as we look to reopen our country's borders and allow this international travel? i'm asking you this because in nashville, in tennessee, in nashville, in memphis, the great smoky mountains. you were just talking about people getting back, which, of course, the smoky mountains are the most visited national park in our entire park system. so let's talk about getting that open and people coming back into these tourism spots in our
country. >> thank you, senator, for the question. i think right now there really is a hesitancy to really create a roadmap to reopen international travel, and that's something that we really are urging the biden administration to put forgot. some agencies have a zero risk base approach. some are interested in finding a path forward. throughout the pandemic we've really heard the data and science should lead the way, and so we agree. we think that there can be a data-driven, science-based approach to reopening international travel, and other countries, our competition really, are already contemplating that. we have seen timelines put out by the united kingdom and others, and i really think that with a clear roadmap that contemplates vaccination rates and perhaps infection rates and others, that there will be a reopening. first and foremost, we need that timeline. we need a timeline that's
certain, so when we look at may we are saying, "please put out a roadmap for reopening so that we can," you know, if it is starting with the uk and a travel corridor, let's do that. but we need to find a path. we need to have clear timelines and benchmarks and clarity from the federal government. we should be a leader in this regard. we are the united states of america, and we want to be able to welcome international travelers back to the u.s. >> sounds good. i think it was mr. hill who is las vegas tourism, is that correct? >> that's correct, senator. >> yes. you know, las vegas like nashville depends a lot on the event venues. you have talked about the workforce, and as our live event industry looks to recover, one
of the things we have learned is about 30% of the people in the firms have left the industry and 30% of the support service firms have actually ceased to exist during the pandemic. so what do you see as the way back to the live event and the concert industry for areas like las vegas and nashville? how are they going to handle this workforce shortage? >> senator, i was in your state at the nfl draft a couple of years ago and nashville did such a great job. we learned loot. we learned a lot. i love your state and i look forward to the industry and the question. there is -- when you dissipate a vast majority of your workforce, the ability to get them back is very difficult.
we are experiencing -- mr. perez mentioned we are experiencing labor shortages here, even though we are quite a ways away from a full recovery, but the ability to attract people back to the industry, particularly after they have been dislocated, they're concerned about the certainty of that job, is going to be an issue the industry is going to have to deal with moving forward. it is going to be difficult to do. >> we are going to have to do it. in nashville, a large part of the tourism industry is comprised of conventions and convention work. i know between june and the end of the year there are 80 major conventions that are on the books in nashville, and that
would be about $200 million in direct spending and $16 million in state taxes. now, without clearly defined timelines, these conventions are threatening to cancel. you know, we kind of got that hanging out there. so are you seeing the same thing in las vegas and what are you doing to keep these in-person conventions coming your way? >> we are seeing the same thing, senator. it takes three, four, five months at times for these meetings and conventions to plan the event, to mobilize for the event, and it is expensive for them to do that. if they don't have some level of certainty that the event is going to be able to take place, we were seeing conventions cancel four to six months out on kind of a rolling basis.
recently our governor provided some certainty. it is why we are able to move forward with world of concrete, which we think will be kind of a gateway event for the industry, not only here in nevada but to be able to show how to do it right, that it went well. the entire industry is watching that, and we think that should provide some confidence so that policy decisionmakers can provide that certainty moving forward. >> that's great. thank you so much. madam chairman, i yield my time. >> thank you. i'm going to go to a second round of questions. i know i have a lot of questions, but just one final question, and then ask for senator scott for a final question. so as i've been hearing all of the thoughtful testimony and questions from all of my colleagues, what i am really struck by as the bottom line is about infrastructure, how tourism infrastructure, how important it is. so we're going to be moving
forward with infrastructure legislation here in the united states senate, in congress in general, and we have an opportunity to make investments that revive and enhance our travel and tourism economy. of course, in nevada our airports are gateways to everything we have to offer. before the pandemic, they were nearly at capacity. those who don't fly to us come to us by bus or car, way of highways that need major improvement, even expansion. the northern part of my state, a rail offers another place for visiting wonderful places like reno, alco and winamaka and rail service has slowed over the past year. what i would like to ask mr. hill and then ms. barnes, how key is passing an infrastructure bill that deals with the ports, for the cruises, of course, our ports, our roads, our bridges, our airports, our railways in order to get the
tourism economy revitalized? mr. hill. >> senator rosen, thank you for the question. this has been an issue i have worked for most of my career. as you mentioned, all modes of transportation are critical in order to allow our industry to recover and then thrive in the future. nowhere is that more critically seen in las vegas than the i-15 corridor. we have more than recovered our drive traffic, and that has more than caused the congestion that we had in 2019, for example. so that national travel strategy, infrastructure strategy that i mentioned earlier i think is critically important, and funding is through an infrastructure package is equally important. i will mention, i appreciate the
support that congress has given to the airlines and the airports. that industry is exceptionally capital intensive, and it obviously suffered significantly during the depths of the pandemic. not having the ability to have that industry start immediately back up when the demand is there would have been devastating. it is that focus in particular was appreciated and important when that happened. >> thank you. ms. barnes? >> thank you. i would echo mr. hill's comments regarding the necessary funding for the travel and infrastructure strategy. if we have a system to move freight, we should also have the funding and mechanism to move people. i would add to that though that large hub infrastructure for airports is also critically
important, investing in high-speed rail and hyperloop, and also in electric vehicle technology infrastructure. as we know, the auto manufacturers have set deadlines in electric vehicle technology infrastructure. as we know the auto manufacturers have said that lines, or goals i should say, of 2035 is [inaudible] early or after that, to have all [inaudible] and matt greater, think about the great american road trip, we should think about the queen american road trip and how infrastructure, if you're going to drive from, you know, florida to california or new york to washington, how you can do that in a sustainable way. so we think that these infrastructure aspect would be really important and then the urgency for funding these projects is now. >> thank you. i look forward myself to i've
-- driven across the country a few times, the great american road trip, it is wonderful. and we have an amazingly beautiful country, each and every state has something wonderful to offer. and hopefully we are going to get started back now that we are starting to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror. senator scott. >> i want to finish by again thanking cheer rosen for this great committee hearing today. i want to thank my colleagues, and i want to thank all the panelists for their thoughtful questions in conversation. miss barnes, how is [inaudible] doing with their tourism, recovery they had hurricane maria, they had the earthquake, and now they had covid. so were you seeing travelers coming back to the island? what have you been hearing about puerto rico? >> yeah, so travel spending is down about 48%. so it's quite significant, obviously, their economy is so dependent on tourism. and as we've talked about here, the business meetings and events and international travel,
it really creates a significant challenge for them. so i know you have been such a tremendously leader for puerto rico and the issues that that destination is facing. but i think that there's still a lot of work to do and i think that by more broadly reopening, again, international and being able to bring business meetings and events back, that will be helpful in helping puerto rico grow back again, obviously, they had a year over year challenges. so again, thank you for your leadership, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done. >> great. thank you, again thank you, thank you, chairwoman. it's a great event. >> thank you. well, i would again like to thank our four witnesses for being here today. mr. steve hill, mr. jorge perez, miss tory emerson's barnes and miss carroll dover. really appreciate your work in this area. we look forward to working with you on going forward. i'd like to submit for the
record three letters, one from the exhibitors and conference alliance, another from the american hotel and lodging association, and a threat from the american bus association. this hearing record -- the hearing record will remain open for two weeks until tuesday, april 27th, 2021. any senators that would like to submit questions for the record should do so by tuesday, april 27th, 2021. for those of you who have testified today, we asked that your responses be returned to the committee as quickly as possible, and in no case later than two weeks after receipt. that concludes today's inaugural hearing.