Philly’s tourism economy has already lost $1 billion as a result of coronavirus - and faces an extended road back

23 May 2020 1:20 PM
Shuttered restaurants and museums. Canceled meetings and events. Even the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are closed.

Philadelphia and its own attractions are usually bustling this time around of year with springtime tourists and other visitors. Now, a hospitality industry that supports almost 200,000 jobs across the town and its own four suburban Pennsylvania counties is practically in hibernation through the coronavirus pandemic.

The times of lost financial activity - already pegged at more than $1 billion - are accumulated. And the nights of empty resort rooms are eating in to the budgets of local tourism promotion agencies, such as for example Visit Philadelphia. That’s money to promote which will eventually be had a need to lure tourists back, once it’s safe.

“We’re likely to have each one of these major cities and destinations competing for people’s time and money,” said the group’s CEO, Jeff Guaracino.

Even though some businesses such as for example retail are eyeing a partial reopening as early as May, tourism officials are cautiously optimistic that some meetings and leisure trips will grab in the fall. How, exactly, persons will “change their travel behavior” can be an open question, Guaracino said.

Visit Philadelphia, which is basically funded by the tax guests pay on hotel bookings, estimates that it'll lose at least $6.3 million because of its fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That’s greater than a third of the organization’s $15 million budget.

Guaracino was facing the chance the other day of furloughing staff for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which is the Philadelphia region’s official tourism promoter. But Visit Philadelphia was approved for a $1 million loan beneath the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the main government’s growing coronavirus economic rescue package. The funding covers two months of staff salaries in the 50-person office.

“We've an obligation to return on that investment,” Guaracino said, adding: “It'll be a competitive advantage for all of us to get back to market quicker.”

In January, tourism officials from over the region got through to stage at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for a celebratory event, announcing new campaigns and partnerships for the year ahead. Now, a weekly meeting among a lot of those same officials revolves around the pandemic - “to talk about recovery, and what might some of these messages be when it’s time to pivot,” said Julie Coker, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Philadelphia region drew 45 million visitors who spent $7.6 billion in 2018 (the most recent year that numbers can be found). This year, metropolis has already lost an estimated $1.1 billion in monetary activity linked to tourism, according to go to Philadelphia.

The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group, estimates that the financial fallout to the industry nationally will be nine times worse than following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. About 50 % of 15.8 million travel-related jobs are projected to disappear by the finish of April - a “catastrophic” figure, the group says.

“The future of the united states for a while in particular is very going to be dependent on these destinations having the ability to survive and help the economy rebuild,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, an executive vice president at the U.S. Travel Association.

The Paycheck Protection Program offers one potential lifeline, though unlike Visit Philadelphia, many tourism promotion groups don’t have that option.

So-called “destination marketing organizations” that are organized as 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6) nonprofits - including several in your community - or that work as an arm of a local government, can’t apply for PPP. The U.S. Travel Association is advocating to improve that in future legislation.