Tourism Cares has brought together 12 travel industry associations to develop and support the Destination Disaster Recovery Fund, with the hopes of becoming the primary resource for travel and tourism-related recovery efforts for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

"We would like to be the Red Cross for the tourism industry," said Mike Rea, CEO of Tourism Cares. "We will not focus on rebuilding houses. There's billions of dollars to do that. The recovery phase, especially for an industry like tourism, is underfunded. These destinations are highly dependent on tourism. ... Our message is that by working together, we can build back tourism."

The fund is being supported and promoted by the American Bus Association, ASTA, CLIA, Destinations International, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, National Association of Career Travel Agents, National Tour Association, Skal International USA, Southeast Tourism Society, Student and Youth Tourism Association, U.S. Tour Operators Association and U.S. Travel Association.

Mike Rea
Mike Rea

Rea said that this level of cooperation is unprecedented in the travel industry. Additional trade groups are welcome to join.

The fund will support the three regions most affected by the two hurricanes: the Caribbean, the Texas Gulf Coast and the hardest hit parts of Florida. It will focus on the recovery of tourism sites and communities; leveraging the travel industry's skills and influence; and partnering with local organizations such as the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Texas Travel Industry Association to identify the biggest tourism-related needs.

"This is a time for the entire industry to come together and help the recovery of these destinations and the tourism communities they support," stated Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

Armed with experience in dealing with the aftermath and impact on tourism economies of previous natural disasters, Tourism Cares has set forth some key goals for the recovery fund: restoring valuable and vulnerable tourism sites and attractions; investing in sustainable tourism-related social enterprise projects; training and workforce development, especially for displaced or temporarily unemployed workers; and promoting a return of tourism to impacted destinations.

Early contributors to the fund include NYC & Company, Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, ADARA, Amadeus IT Group, AIG Travel, Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, Globus, MaCher, Jordan Tourism Board North America, Shackman Associates and Robin Tauck.

Rea would not disclose how much the fund aims to raise, but said that he is optimistic about a high level of industry support.

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