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New US Senate panel to tackle Nevada tourism amid pandemic

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A U.S. Senate subcommittee focused on travel and tourism has met for the first time to discuss ways to help the industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion met on Tuesday, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

"Travel and tourism-related industries drive job creation and economic growth in states across America, especially in Nevada," said Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, the committee’s chair. "These industries and the workers they employ are absolutely essential to our state's prosperity."

Rosen said the committee will develop bipartisan solutions to bring the industry back to pre-pandemic levels. The committee is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

In Nevada, the pandemic closed casinos for more than two months last year and they have yet to fully recover, the Sun reported. The state’s unemployment rate reached a high of about 30%, and the loss of gaming and other tax revenue left the state in a $1.2 billion budget deficit.

"It brought our travel and tourism economy screeching to a halt and decimated the jobs that these industries support," Rosen said.

It will likely take five years for the travel industry to fully recover, said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice-president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association.

The association is now working to reopen international travel, implement federal guidance for state and local governments to restart conventions and pass the Hospitality and Commerce Jobs Recovery Act aimed at creating incentives to boost travel.

"Our tourism economy will need our full support as our nation recovers," said Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who introduced the act with Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Rosen said the subcommittee will also focus on ecotourism, outdoor recreation and international travel. But for now the goal is to bring tourists back to Nevada, from the "excitement and energy of the Las Vegas Strip" to "the vast and pristine public lands throughout our state," she said.

The Associated Press