During the U.S. Travel Association's annual State of the Industry last week, CEO Roger Dow praised Congress' extension of the Paycheck Protection Program in its latest relief bill to include destination marketing organizations (DMOs), a move that will keep DMOs across the country from shutting their doors.

"We helped elected officials understand that DMOs are the backbone of the U.S. travel industry," Dow said. "They drive demand, promote small businesses and will play a crucial role in welcoming back visitors, safely restarting meetings and events and reviving Main Streets across America."

DMOs were left out of the first round of relief due to their nonprofit status. But because they are predominately funded by local hotel and tourism taxes, their funding virtually dried up in 2020, forcing deep budget cuts and layoffs. 

Elliott Ferguson, CEO of Destination DC, said the relief funding will be a "lifeline for our organization."

"Our staff is our most important asset," Ferguson said. "It's their wellbeing that keeps me up at night, and PPP will provide critical funding for us to maintain staff and operations.

Last summer we examined how some destination marketing organizations were innovating to keep travel dreams alive.

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"In DC alone, visitor spending is down $4.9 billion year over year, and it will be a long road back, but this support for our industry is a critical step."

Destinations International, the trade association that represents more than 600 visitor bureaus, including more than 400 in the U.S., also applauded the bill, saying the funding will "be important to helping rebuild communities around the country."

In December, when the bill was proposed, Destination DC was among many organizations that commended U.S. Travel for pressing Congress throughout the year on the need to include DMOs in relief funding. As far back as June, U.S. Travel had been sounding the alarm that if DMOs were not given relief, it would hamper travel's overall recovery.

"DMOs are critical engines for local and regional economic development, without which an economic recovery will fall well short of its full potential," said Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel's executive vice president of public affairs and policy. "Small businesses -- which comprise 83% of travel-related companies -- will suffer if their local DMOs do not survive long enough to assist with a recovery. DMOs are charged with driving visitors to hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions -- priceless support for mom-and-pop establishments that do not have robust marketing budgets of their own."

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