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25 Feb 2021
Pandemic having 'massive impact' on US attractions – losses estimated at US$23bn
By Tom Walker
Pandemic having 'massive impact' on US attractions – losses estimated at US$23bn
US theme parks and visitor attractions were forced to close for months during 2020
Photo: Shutterstock/Flystock
The pandemic cost the US visitor attractions an estimated US$23bn in economic losses during 2020, while the sector also suffered job losses five times larger than the average loss across all other US industries.

The figures come from a report, called The Employment Impact of
COVID-19 on the U.S. Attractions Industry
, published by industry body, IAAPA, which charts the "devastating effect" the pandemic has had on the attraction industry.

In the report, IAAPA states the industry is in "dire need of support" from elected officials and policymakers who would play a key role in facilitating the safe reopening of attractions – as well as spearhead COVID-19 relief legislation.

"The economic impact of the pandemic on the attractions industry has been devastating," IAAPA said.

"Some attractions closed and were not allowed to reopen – even with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Some closed for several months in 2020, while others remained open, but at limited capacities.

"Many of these businesses will never reopen again; the effects of lost revenue and business for such an extended time left an irrevocable impact.

"Response by elected officials and policymakers has had a measurable effect on how regional attractions have weathered this challenging time.

"A comparison found that the recovery in Florida, which worked quickly to reopen facilities with safety protocols in place, is coming swifter than in states such as California, Massachusetts, Illinois and New York, which have largely kept their attractions facilities closed."

The report also notes that even after reopening, attractions business will face a challenge in building up attendance levels back to normal levels.

“While IAAPA members that have reopened have proven they can do so safely, these businesses continue to struggle due to consumer reluctance and guest capacity limitations, severely affecting revenue and the ability to bring back and rehire staff to previous levels," the report states.

John Hallenbeck, vice president, North America, IAAPA, said: "On behalf of our industry and the thousands of people who rely upon it, I strongly urge Congress to pass additional relief legislation that includes attractions industry-specific support.

"This should include additional PPP funding, extension of the employee retention tax credit through 2021, and financial aid to state and local governments to allow for the creation of grant and loan programs specific to our industry and liability protection for businesses that can safely reopen.

"And I encourage elected officials to continue to work on reopening businesses in their states. Safety has always been the attractions industry’s number-one priority. That will never change. Parks and attractions are ready to reopen responsibly and can do so with guidance and regional support.”

• To read the full IAAPA report, click here.

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