TO: Commerce Committee
HB 6119 An Act Concerning Arts, Culture and Tourism Funding
Dear Committee Members:
On behalf of the Eastern Regional Tourism District, I am writing in support of An Act Concerning Arts, Culture and Tourism Funding, HB 6119. These areas and adjacent hospitality industry represent a significant sector of the eastern Connecticut economy and an essential area of economic recovery and growth following the devastating COVID downturn.
Traditionally, tourism and related industries represent $14.7B in sales revenues, $1.7B in tax revenues, and over 120,000 jobs for Connecticut. Securing funding in support of this key economic driver promises significant returns in a typical year. Now, coping with devastating losses due to the COVID pandemic, these industries need dedicated support from the state more than ever in order to recover and rehire thousands of workers.
Eastern Connecticut is home to the largest tourist venues in the state, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Chamber serves the Eastern Regional Tourism District in an administrative role, and we are further invested in the success of the tourism, arts, and hospitality industries as many of our benefactors and small business members work in this sector. Since COVID, tourism, hospitality and the arts have been the hardest hit industries locally, with jobs losses in the thousands, down as much as 30% year over year in the food service sector. Arts venues have been shuttered with no significant means of earning revenue. Recovery is at a standstill as air travel is down almost 70%, and hotel occupancy has dropped by more than half.
Passing HB 6119 now prepares our state for recovery in the near future. The Arts, Culture, and Tourism Fund will benefit from a sustainable funding source by increasing the 10% allocation from the Hotel Occupancy Tax to 25%. Increased support for these sectors has been a stated goal for years and a recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Tourism. Building on the previous commitment is economically sound and advantageous to the state long term as we realize increased revenues from out-of-state travelers. Tourism and the arts initiate ripple effects across the economy, which will be essential as small businesses recover or emerge as COVID recedes and pent-up demand drives consumer spending in this area.
I strongly urge the Commerce Committee to forward HB 6119, An Act Concerning Arts, Culture and Tourism Funding, in support of a long-identified opportunity for economic growth in the state and a response to immediate pressures in a sector disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
Tony Sheridan, President and CEO
TO: Commerce Committee