We Need a New Deal: Bring Back the Civilian Conservation Corps

by: Andreas Weissenborn, Destinations International

Throughout American history much has been written on the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), from his role in redefining the role of the federal government to establishing the current United States’ leadership role on the world stage. He is often written as one of the most important figures in the twentieth century and perhaps the whole history of the United States for his presidential legacy. It is in the beginning of his presidential career, his first 100 days, on where we might want to study on providing purpose and stability to both our decimated hospitality industry, the massive unemployment of travel and tourism workers and the campaign against the war on COVID-19.

Civilian Conservation Corps promotional poster

To set the stage, when FDR entered the office in the 1930s, he was looking at some of the darkest days of a post-World War I America. The country was deep in the Great Depression laden with unemployment, grief, and a broken economic foundation. He entered the offices of the presidency knowing each day mattered to his countryman and he was going to spend it on bold moves to restore and renew prosperity to families, neighbors, and communities. In one of his earliest fireside chats, he championed unity and strength and outlined the beginnings of what would be the New Deal he had promised in his campaign.

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” – FDR, 1932 Democratic National Convention

Established as a series of programs, infrastructure projects, and reforms & regulations, the New Deal served as tinder to fuel the economic recovery of the Great Depression.

70 years later, my earliest impression of FDR and his New Deal agenda came through our mutual shared interest of the great outdoors and the legacy of his Civilian Conservation Corps projects. They were designed as a rapid relief program to the crippling unemployment of young un-married men to provide work related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local government. These were not just merely jobs to the downtrodden but instilling a sense of pride and purpose in our nation’s most capable in a good day’s work. Many of my favorite camping sites and national parks I have found exploring the great state of West Virginia come from projects built by the CCC.

What I see in front of us is not hard to make comparisons to our times in the 30’s, an economy crippled with job loss, surrounded by death, and citizens filled with grief and anxiety. We know our industry and sector has been hit hardest by this, with ‘losing 47% of its total positions.’ It is time we get a 2020 version of a “New Deal” and reactivate the CCC with a hospitality twist. While I would love to see attention draw back to our natural parks and landscapes, I see three more immediate needs to mobilize and put people of all walks of life back to work.

Contact Tracers

To successful combat the coronavirus until a vaccine is widely adopted, a robust and rapid testing infrastructure is needed. Several countries have demonstrated success early on and continued hence forth; our own efforts need a boost of workers to help with the growing cases our country faces. Why not put former employees of our restaurants, hotels, and destination organizations connecting with people to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

2020 Election Judges

To say this election is one for the history books is an understatement. With the pandemic causing many of us to not vote in person this year, our country must prepare for the largest influx of mail-in voting in our country’s history. Like contact tracing above, we need people in mass to help with the counting and qualification of every vote delivered through the USPS this November. This starts with hiring of election judges for every voting precinct in every city, county and state in the United States.

2020 Census Workers

A survey taken once a decade but with results felt for the next decade. Our census shapes our neighborhoods and community to both our representation and access to economic opportunity. It is administered by census workers who make sure each household is counted and doublechecked. The more census workers available, the larger the sample can be taken and the faster it can be administered.

Our country has faced the odds before. In these moments we have often mobilized around bold new ideas and we have emerged with bold new vigor. I would like to finish with a version of the rest of the FDR quote from the 1932 Democratic National Convention -- but this time, through our voice.

“I pledge you, pledge myself, to a New Deal for the hospitality industry. Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of community and of courage. This is more than a marketing campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win room-nights, but to win in this crusade to restore travel and tourism to its own people.” – Andreas Weissenborn, 2020

About the Author

Andreas Weissenborn headshot
Andreas Weissenborn
Senior Director of Research & Advocacy
Destinations International
Introduced to the world of destination organizations by a random internship application to Visit Baltimore (then known as Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association), Andreas Weissenborn began an unexpected career into hospitality that left him with a continued passion towards the tourism industry.

He spent just short of 11 years with Visit Baltimore helping with its Research, Technology, and Information Systems across the organization. In 2017, Andreas joined the Association on behalf of a Destinations International Foundation initiative to be a dedicated research source for Destinations International.