Tourism Development Gets Boost in Washington

Among the many parts of the recent omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in December was an important piece of the puzzle for tourism development, both nationally and in St. Johns County

The Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act establishes the post of Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism to support and enhance domestic travel and tourism as well as create goals for attracting international visitors.

That is welcome news for St. Johns County tourist development efforts.

“It shows an acknowledgment by the federal government of the importance of the travel and tourism industry in the economy,” said Isabelle Renault, president and CEO at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. “The creation of this position was triggered by the negative impact of COVID-19 on our travel and tourism industry – especially international travel.  

Renault said federal attention to the travel and tourism industry is necessary and already something other countries have done and addresses the impact of Covid-19 on travel.

“The pandemic highlighted a need to collect tourism and travel data for the creation of coordinated national tourism and travel strategy,” she said. “Elevating the importance of the tourism and travel industry at a federal level is long overdue, in my opinion, and that effort should continue. Other countries have organized their tourism industry very efficiently resulting in stronger revenue and a capacity to swiftly shift strategy to adapt to a changing environment such as a pandemic or natural disaster.”

The new legislation also establishes the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to assist the Commerce Department with travel and tourism-industry related matters, and requires the Commerce Department, along with representatives of the advisory board, the Tourism Policy Council and the Department of Homeland Security to develop a 10-year travel and tourism strategy for Congress.

The bill also earmarks $4 million to study the impact of Covid-19 on the travel and tourism industry and f$1 million to fund the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.