Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas and other Nevada cities are doing the right thing for the nation and the world by imposing and enforcing precautions against the spread of COVID-19 in our resorts. In responding more aggressively to the pandemic than states like Arizona, Texas and Florida, we’ve sacrificed enormously in lost jobs and lost income.
Now, the nation needs to recognize our sacrifice by providing special aid to our state and others that heavily rely on travel and tourism. Lawmakers should approve new legislation spearheaded by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., to provide $5 billion in federal grants to promote tourism and hospitality.
The bill, which would add the grants to the next coronavirus relief package, is supported by the entire Nevada congressional delegation, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers from states that rely heavily on tourism.
Titled the Healthy and Safe Travel Promotion Act, the legislation would not only provide additional funding targeted to tourism but would give local governments in tourism-heavy areas greater ability to tailor CARES Act funding to their local needs.
It’s a much-needed measure, and not just for Nevada. According to the U.S. Travel Association, traveler spending in the U.S. generated $2.6 trillion in economic output and supported 15.8 million jobs last year.
In Nevada, tourism generated $19 billion to the state’s gross domestic product and supports more than 450,000 jobs at full capacity.
But as we know painfully well, we’re nowhere near full capacity. Our unemployment rate may currently stand at 15% after reaching a staggering 28.2% in April, but we’re still well above the national average of 10.2%.
However — and this can’t be stressed enough — we’re still taking precautions to protect our guests. Our response hasn’t been perfect, but we’ve been responsible in imposing requirements for social-distancing guidelines and the wearing of face masks. And as shown recently when resorts in both Las Vegas and Reno were cited by state gaming regulators for violating provisions of the state’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, we’re backing up those requirements with enforcement.
Just think what might have happened if Nevada had gone the way of Sturgis, S.D., where more than 200,000 people are being allowed to freely roam around without masks or social-distancing requirements for that community’s annual biker rally.
The idea of such a superspreader event happening here is unthinkable. And incidentally, the annual fall BikeFest, which attracts 25,000-plus attendees a year, has been canceled this year.
But the loss of a full array of events and conventions — CES, the Global Gaming Expo and many more — has come at an enormous price to our economy. And although the monthly visitor count crept over 1 million last month, the flow of tourists to Las Vegas remains at a relative trickle.
Our city and state are deserving of extra federal aid, not only in recognition of our sacrifice but because we make an important contribution to the national economy. Here’s a pat on the back for Titus for protecting our state’s interests and leading the charge to get help.