Tourism Development Authority among industry groups looking to Congress for relief

The tourism industry has suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Like many tourism-related businesses across the country, the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority has taken a hard hit because of the coronavirus pandemic. The TDA is funded solely through tax dollars generated by tourist spending, and with fewer visitors coming to area beaches and attractions, revenue has dropped.

“We’re not government funded,” said Kim Hufham, President and CEO of the authority. “We rely on those ongoing tax receipts that come in annually and without those, we have a real budget deficit.”

But the TDA, like other destination marketing organizations across the country, is not eligible to apply for federal relief through avenues like the Paycheck Protection Program, because it is considered a quasi-governmental agency. The industry is asking Congress for help, and to be included in the next round of federal coronavirus relief.

“It would be important especially as we move forward, we don’t know how fall is going to be, how winter is going to be,” Hufham said. “You know our numbers are not nearly as large as our summer months to begin with.”

Hufham said the TDA furloughed about half of its' staff when the pandemic began, to make it through the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year. She said the authority had a 28 percent budget decrease for 2020-21 because of estimated revenue losses. Even though Destination Marketing Organizations cannot apply for the CARES Act relief funding, the TDA did receive some money through the state tourism office. But it came with stipulations on how it could be used. Hufham said the authority began working on a campaign to let visitors know it is safe to visit the area’s beaches.

“It’s a campaign that’s based on safety, so people begin to feel same coming back to a destination, the measures we’re taking and that type of thing to invite our visitors back,” she said.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have included language in proposed bills that would allow the destination marketing organizations to get some federal assistance. Authorities like the NHCTDA hope to be included in any final bill that passes Congress and is signed by the president.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.