The leading companies in the Newport area are calling on state lawmakers to step up support and assistance for small businesses in the run-up to the summer 2021 travel season.
“We want to make short-term and longer-term efforts to mitigate the negative economic effects of the coronavirus,” said Erin Donovan-Boyle, executive director of the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce. “We are focused on accelerating recovery by harnessing the region’s vast assets and making our quality of life and quality of life unmatched and better prepared for future economic disruptions.”
Restore Greater Newport, a task force formed by the Chamber and other industry leaders in March 2020 to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local business, announced a list of six recommended actions at a news conference Tuesday morning , which they hope will help businesses in the Newport area recover from the pandemic and move into the 2021 summer tourism season.
Two of the Task Force’s recommendations focus on providing assistance to the tourism and hospitality industries, which Donovan-Boyle identified as a key business area in the Greater Newport region. The task force calls on the state to develop and communicate a reopening plan for the tourism industry and to identify state funding for regional travel marketing.
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Speaking at the press conference, Evan Smith, CEO of Discover Newport, said the tourism industry has suffered more than any other industry over the past year. As summer approaches, Smith says the industry needs clear guidelines to prevent unexpected event cancellations during peak travel season.
“We need predictable guidelines that these organizers can rely on so that they can convey this to their customers, and everyone feels safe so that you don’t move any goalposts, otherwise you. We will continue to suffer from cancellations, which is a huge problem for our industry right now, ”said Smith. “We have postponed conferences, we have postponed weddings, we have postponed events so often that the frustration is very high and so we really have to work together.”
Smith said government-funded travel marketing is also important to the tourism industry’s recovery efforts by giving consumers the confidence to travel.
Another recommendation calls for a one-year break for new laws or regulations that may impose new costs or changes in management and operations on small businesses, including hospitality companies. Donovan-Boyle said this hiatus would allow these companies to focus on rebuilding operations from their pandemic states.
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“It’s not time for costly mandates,” said Donovan-Boyle. “Many small businesses, including restaurants, hotels and venues, are about to close and an additional regulatory burden could push them over the edge. Nor is it time to suppress other industries that will help us cope with this economic downturn, even with additional taxes. “
The other three recommendations call for continued support from already established resources. The first calls on the Department of Labor and Education to keep its Real Jobs RI program, which provides local businesses with workforce support and education, as a permanent funded program. The other two are federal funds, one calling for a coordinated effort between business associations and local leaders to raise more incentive funding for infrastructure and economic needs, and the other for refinement of the state’s distribution of stimulus money in anticipation of the land calls for next round of economic finance.
“We strongly believe that our regional public-private partnership is best placed to identify and implement the programs and projects we need to accelerate recovery and implement strategic development,” said Donovan-Boyle. “We have the data, the information and the essentials to implement these projects and programs, and we hope that the state will work with us so that we can not only track our own federal dollars, but also control some of the coming federal dollars from the federal one Incentive. “
Dale Venturini, president of the Rhode Island Hospitality Industry, said the hope with the final recommendation is to streamline incentive funding mechanisms to make them faster and easier.
“We had a lot of opportunities, a lot of things happened so quickly, it’s a kind of cliché to say that there was no set of rules, and certainly no set of rules about rent and what we did with blankets and heating, from what many you have worked with tents and heaters and the like, ”said Venturini. “We didn’t have any written guidelines, so we found out by all of us coming together. What we want to make sure is that the next time money comes in, we sit at the table to find out. “
Donovan-Boyle said the group is working on more specific recommendations for action to be released over the next few weeks.