Lake tourism group asking state for help

Larry Limpf

Lake Erie Shores & Islands is asking the state for financial assistance as the pandemic takes its toll on the tourism industry in Erie and Ottawa counties.
Larry Fletcher, president of the organization, in a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine said local businesses are projecting a 40-50 percent drop in travel-related spending in 2020 compared to last year.
“Even with a moderate level of travel resuming in June, we are conservatively projecting an overall 40-50 percent downturn in travel-related spending in our region in 2020 compared to 2019, resulting in as much as $1 billion in reduced tourism-related impact for our two-county region alone.
“Most of our region's tourism businesses are now closed and even those that qualify to remain open are operating at unsustainable levels. From the biggest such as Cedar Point and Kalahari Resort, to the Lake Erie islands, dine-in restaurants, museums, charter fishing captains, hotels and B&Bs, our tourism industry is on the ropes and the economic impact and quality of life it generates is suffering more with each passing day without visitors. Many businesses that through their goods and services support our tourism industry are also at risk. With appropriate safeguards, we must get our tourism businesses back open,” the letter says
Fletcher notes that several federal and state relief programs have been created to help business owners deal with current financial struggles but most of the area’s tourism businesses are seasonal and have not been able to apply for funds.
“Many of these seasonal operations will not survive and those open year-round are getting deeper in a hole with no visitors coming through their doors. We need support for these businesses now to ensure they will be here in the future,” the letter says.
He asks the governor to consider a relief program for the tourism industry along the lake similar to what was done in Ohio Appalachian counties using JobsOhio funding.
In March, JobsOhio announced it made a $2 million investment in Appalachian Growth Capital, LLC as a low-interest loan. The funds will allow AGC to help small companies disrupted by the pandemic with financing.
“Many of these dollars are generated through sales in our region of the state, and we believe these loans would be a sound investment as our area is positioned well to rebound relatively quickly once it is safe for people to travel again. Perhaps there are other approaches that could be considered and of course we are committed to working with your administration in whatever way we can to help our region's and all of Ohio's tourism industry survive,” Fletcher says in his letter.
He cites data showing that 11 million visitors travel to the two-county region annually, contributing about $1.5 billion in direct spending.
The indirect and induced spending generates another $600 million.
“Tourism is responsible for one in four jobs in Erie County and one in five in Ottawa County and visitor spending generates $255 million annually in taxes,” the letter says.


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