(The Center Square) – The coronavirus hit Arizona at the peak of its travel season, leaving fans disappointed at the canceling of Major League Baseball’s spring training, unemployed tourism and hospitality industry workers, and near-empty hotels in its wake.
Kim Sabow, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, told The Center Square that the state has lost nearly $2 billion in visitor spending, $312 million in state and local tax revenue and almost 50 percent of the industry’s jobs.
Arizona’s tourism industry got hit first and worst according to Garrick Taylor, executive vice president at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Taylor told The Center Square that a continuation of rising infection rates can have only a negative impact on business and leisure travel. Once progress is made in reducing the spread or an effective treatment or vaccine is found, travel will recover.
“A reduction in the spread of COVID-19 and increased consumer confidence are the two main factors for jumpstarting local, national and international travel again,” Sabow told The Center Square. “We will also need to invest dollars in marketing Arizona as the preeminent location for leisure and business travel when it is safe to do so.”
Fifteen states also now require Arizona residents or anyone visiting Arizona to quarantine for two weeks once they return home.
The latest forecast is that travel could remain down through 2023, but Sabow told The Center Square that it is difficult to determine how long it will take for travel to return to pre-pandemic levels.
There is, however, some optimism for Arizona and other western states.
“We’re doing a lot of research and there’s no question about it,” Roger Dow, president of US Travel Association, told AZFamily.com. “Americans are saying they feel more comfortable in the West. They feel more comfortable outdoors, so you’re going to get more than your fair share of the travelers, they’re going to flock to those areas.”
Sabow said the industry has been leading the effort to ensure the safety of employees and guests with AZ SAFE+CLEAN, a campaign based on the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Safe Stay program.