Philadelphia ready to bounce back after tourism industry takes $4.1 billion hit

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Taking into account the sudden and devastating impact of COVID-19 on the Philadelphia multi-billion dollar tourism industry, the mayor's office announced a new initiative aimed at reopening the city post-COVID.

"All of us are working together in which to restart the tourism economy," said Jeff Guaracino, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia.

The agency is just one of a number of agencies assigned to market Philadelphia and making tourists feel safe to visit.

"And what you'll begin to see are more ads for 'Our Turn to Tourist,' you'll begin to see more social media posts," said Guaracino.

The initiative comes after it was revealed the city had a record 46 million people visiting in 2019, spending a record $7.64 billion. This year, all of that went up in smoke thanks to COVID-19.

"I think we'll get back there, it's going to take us some time, maybe to 2023," said Guaracino.

COVID-19 didn't just consume lives, it consumed many jobs, particularly the 188,000 in the hospitality industry.

"Close to 40% of our friends and our neighbors found themselves out of work," said Guaracino.

On Thursday, crews were emptying out all the furniture of the now-shuttered Embassy Suites on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

"And I'm really hoping we don't lose more. We really need to get back to allowing our hotels to do business. We really need to get to a point where they're allowed to do caterer events," said Ed Grose of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.

Most hotels in Philadelphia have reopened, and Grose says most of them, like the newly open Canopy Hotel, have spent a ton of money to keep everything sanitized.

"The safety of our team members and our guests are our top priority," said Grose.

Still, they are running at very low occupancy rates. What's really killing most hotels is the limit of no more than 25 people at any event.

"There's a lot of weddings out there just waiting to happen. There's a lot of brides out there that are really putting pressure on my members to host their weddings," said Grose.

Grose says the clock is ticking.

"We don't have a lot of time. We need to get our people back to work and we need to figure out how to get through this," he said.

The city estimates it lost $4.1 billion tourism from March through July. It could take until 2024 to fully recover, according to early predictions.
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