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WASHINGTON – Arizona’s senior U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema joined tourism leaders at a Senate hearing this week, discussing the pandemic’s effect on Arizona’s tourism industry, its impact on jobs, small businesses, and communities, and options to assist the industry’s pandemic recovery.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created difficult challenges for many Arizona communities, small business owners, and Arizonans who work in the tourism industry… Given these 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,” said Sinema, member of the Senate Commerce Committee.
During the hearing, Sinema highlighted how business travel may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 and legislative options to assist the recovery. Last week, Phoenix had three large conventions scheduled for this fall cancel on the same day. The Tucson area has seen 149 meetings cancelled since March 2020, which resulted in a $48 million loss in economic impact throughout the region. According to Visit Phoenix, the decline in business travel resulted in over $950 million in lost spending.
Sinema additionally stressed how airport infrastructure investments to improve airport runways and taxiways, terminals, and air traffic control towers can prevent overcrowding and delays as aviation rebounds from the pandemic. Sinema’s Senate-passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would make a $25 billion investment in U.S. airports.
Tourism is an important economic engine for 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 revenue. In 2020, spending by domestic and international travelers declined by 41%, hurting local businesses and putting Arizonans out of work. According to the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, COVID-19 has wiped out 10 years of job growth for Arizona tourism. The Arizona Office of Tourism reports that tourism spending through July 2021 is down $4.5 billion compared to the same period in 2019.