A Letter from Destinations International President & CEO Don Welsh to the Members of the U.S. Congress

By Don Welsh, President and CEO of Destinations International

The following is a letter that was sent by Destinations International President & CEO to the members of the United States Congress on behalf of our US destinations organization members. Destinations International delivered 535 individual letters over this past weekend.  

Dear Representative/Senator ___________,  

Let me begin by thanking you for your leadership and all of your hard work during these most difficult times. I am writing to you today on behalf of the travel and tourism industry, specifically on behalf of U.S.‐based destination organizations and convention and visitors bureaus. The organization I lead has the privilege to count over 480 U.S. destination organizations and CVBs as our members throughout the country. Among those, my team and I have the honor or working with 20 member organizations in the state of Pennsylvania.  

We are thankful for the swift action you took to provide relief for some sectors of the tourism industry affected by the Covid‐19 pandemic. The CARES Act and other legislative measures have provided much‐ needed liquidity to hotels, airlines, and small businesses in the tourism industry and helped to ensure that those entities survive this unprecedented economic slowdown.  

However, our members in Pennsylvania and across the country are very concerned that the CARES Act did not provide any material relief or go far enough to protect destination organizations. The vast majority of destination organizations in Pennsylvania are structured as 501(c)6 nonprofit organizations – solely to give them the ability to accept membership money for marketing and education, and not lobbying. Others are quasi‐public entities, or joint authorities, within the framework of local government. These organizations are also at risk as the municipalities they rely on have their own significant budget challenges and cannot be counted on to “pass‐through” relief to these organizations. Currently, they are not eligible for the Payroll Protection Program and other provisions in the CARES Act.  

Most destination organizations are funded by a portion of taxes collected on hotel bed‐nights. Since occupancy rates at hotels Pennsylvania are at record lows, this pool of funding is no longer available. Destination organizations in Pennsylvania are facing budget shortfalls which threaten to shutter these organizations entirely – and in addition to the dire unemployment situation this will create, the destinations they represent will have no centralized marketing and promotional expert, who can sell the destination to visitors, meeting planners, and other travelers – thus compromising their respective recovery plans.  

It is crucially important that these organizations survive this crisis because tourism will be one of the most important drivers of economic recovery in large and small communities across Pennsylvania As you know, in Pennsylvania tourism generates $37.5 billion annually in direct spending, delivering $4.6 billion in tax receipts every year, and providing jobs to 286010 people in Pennsylvania Destination organizations catalyze this economic activity, driving revenue for tourism businesses in Pennsylvania and putting Pennsylvania back to work in the industry. Destination organizations will play a critical role in the recovery of their communities as travel and meetings once again become part of our daily lives.  

And the efforts of destination organizations go far beyond just filling hotel rooms, restaurants, and attractions. That is only a means to a greater end. In today’s globalized, networked world, every community must compete with every other destination for its share of the world’s visibility, attention and respect; tourists, consumers and available talent; businesses, capital and investments. Those communities who fail to compete will lose ground. They will be left behind in this recovery.  

We respectfully urge you to join your colleagues who have already committed to include relief for destination organizations by amending the CARES Act to extend eligibility in the PPP and other provisions to 501(c)6 organizations or to help these organizations directly in the next round of legislation that you are considering. Please ensure that relief for destination organizations of all types is included in any further legislation that you and your colleagues take up in the upcoming legislative session. Thank you for your consideration and please do not hesitate to contact me personally if we can provide you with additional information on this matter.  

Sincerely,   
Don Welsh  
President and CEO  
Destinations International 

We would urge all of our U.S.-based members – partners and destinations – to send a similar but personalized version of this letter to your own members of Congress or send a note through the Power of Travel Coalition by following this link.

About the Author

Don Welsh headshot
Don Welsh
President & CEO
Destinations International
A seasoned tourism executive with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, Don serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International. Since joining the Association in March 2016, he has implemented a strategic realignment for the association through a renewed commitment to focus on member needs to deliver the resources members have determined to be essential to the success of their organizations. Leading this list of priorities – education, professional development, certification, accreditation, best practices and advocacy support followed by scalable and timely products and services.