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National, local tourism leaders talk about future of industry

Posted at 4:28 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 20:28:24-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Tourism is one the largest contributors to Florida’s economy. In 2019, Palm Beach County saw a record-breaking economic impact of $7.7 billion.

Tourism leaders from around the country met in Boca Raton on Thursday to talk about what's next for the industry.

National and local tourism leaders agree that Palm Beach County could be one of the first tourism markets that visitors set their sights on once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

"I think this next six months is going to be trial and error and we are going to learn from each other and we are going to get Florida open up again," said Roger Dow, the President of the U.S. Travel Association.


FULL INTERVIEW: Roger Dow, the President of the U.S. Travel Association

Dow is a member of President Donald Trump’s recovery task force and said Florida’s road to economic recovery is on the way. But he warned the road ahead is going to be bumpy.

"One-third of all the unemployed come from the travel industry, but we are only three percent of the national GDP," said Dow. "So we are getting hurt 12 times more than any other industry."

On top of that, Dow said it could be up to a year before we start to see international travelers, who spend more than $250 billion every year in the U.S.

"We spend less outside the United States than they spend in the United States. So yes it’s going to be a very big loss financially," said Dow.

However, optimism was the tone for Dow and local tourism leaders at a virtual panel held Thursday morning at the Boca Raton Resort.

"Every day is changing. The mask are going to be a part of the uniform component going forward. How are we separating the tables, golf, tennis, spa? We have protocols at every single level to bring that back on as we start phasing back into the the business," said John Tolbert, the President and Managing Director of the Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Dow said he’s working with industry leaders to come up with a new protocol in this pandemic. Here locally, President of Discover the Palm Beaches, Jorge Pesquera, said they are preparing for the best.

"We here in the Palm Beaches are very well positioned to be one the first destinations to recover, once these restrictions begin to get lifted. Research that has been coming our way from different sources indicate that the number one type of destination people are looking for are beach destinations," said Pesquera.