NORFOLK, Va. - The tourism and hospitality industry brought in about $27 billion but lost about $10 billion of that last year during the pandemic, according to estimates from the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association.
"That's a huge impact on an industry that is very slow to recovery," said Eric Terry, the group's president.
Now, the group has written a letter to state lawmakers in order to ensure the industry receives from funding from the recently passed American Rescue Plan. The law tells states to make sure impacted industries get some of the relief.
A spokesman for Del. Luke Torian, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the state is still waiting from guidelines from the federal government before being able to offer a response to the letter.
Industry experts anticipate the tourism related industry will fare okay during the upcoming summer, but hotels and other businesses that rely on meetings and conventions continue to really struggle.
"It's the leisure customer that's going to come back, but if the core part of your business group is still group meetings and corporate meetings, that's just really slow," said Terry.
The group also estimates about a fifth of restaurants have closed since the beginning of the pandemic in Virginia.
"The ones that are still open still don't have bar seating, still have certain things they can't do, so they're continuing to struggle economically just making a profit," said Terry.
The VRLTA is remaining optimistic about the upcoming tourism season and hopes additional funding will help.