The national and local tourism industry that has been rocked by the may soon find some relief in a new federal program aimed at promoting more domestic travelers.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who used Buffalo's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin D. Martin House complex as the backdrop, said she is pushing for a "Travel Regional Investment Partnership" that will offer federal matching grants up to $1 million to designated tourism-based marketing and development initiatives. The TRIP program comes as the national tourism industry, last year, saw a $100 billion decline and the loss of 400,000 jobs.
"The economy impacted tourism, like every other industry," Gillibrand said. "We want to restore those losses."
Tourism, hospitality and travel is one of New York state's largest industries. In 2007, according to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers spent $51.3 billion in New York while supporting 600,000 jobs across the state. In the Buffalo Niagara region, tourism and hospitality account for more than 20,000 jobs and $1 billion in spending.
The TRIP matching grants could help attract more attention to tourism hot spots including the restored Darwin D. Martin complex, Gillibrand said.
"New York needs to promote herself more and more," Gillibrand said. "We can drive tourism here, just off what's already here to offer."
Gillibrand's TRIP proposal, which would be run the by U.S. Department of Commerce, is being applauded in local tourism and hospitality circles.
The federal dollars could replace those that are being cut by the state because of its projected $9.2 billion budget deficit.
"The notion of 'If you build it, people will come' is a nice notion in the movies, but in reality, we need resources," said Ed Healy, Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau vice president.