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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Thursday, January 19, 2006

202-482-4883

Secretary Gutierrez Announces Grants Promoting Gulf Coast Tourism

NEW ORLEANS—U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez today announced that the Commerce Department will invest $500,000 in Economic Development Administration funds to promote travel and tourism in the Gulf Coast region. The funds will help the Gulf Coast's tourism industry recover. The federal money will be leveraged to pull in additional resources from the private sector and other regional partners, which could total $1 million.

"Travel and tourism was the number one employer that provided thousands of jobs in New Orleans before hurricanes Katrina and Rita," said Gutierrez. "As the Gulf Coast rebuilds, we will make it clear that New Orleans is open for business."

In New Orleans, Gutierrez also announced other Commerce Department initiatives to help the region recover. They include:

  • The Department's Economic Development Administration pledged $500,000 to Louisiana's Department of Economic Development. The funds will be used to provide emergency capital to small firms affected by Hurricane Katrina.
  • Secretary Gutierrez asked the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to develop a plan that will help promote tourism to the region as part of the Advisory Board's national travel and tourism strategy.
  • The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's recent analysis of the Gulf of Mexico found no elevated toxins or bacteria in the water or marine species due to the recent hurricanes. The results indicate that Gulf seafood meets FDA and EPA quality standards and is safe to eat.

Travel and tourism generated more than $1 trillion in revenues for local economies in 2004. Gutierrez said he was optimistic the Gulf-Coast economy would grow, noting that the United States added more than 4.6 million jobs since May of 2003.

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board was chartered in 2003 to advise the Secretary of Commerce on the development, creation and implementation of an international tourism promotion campaign. It was re-chartered last year and its duties expanded to include advising the Secretary of Commerce more broadly on government policies and programs that affect U.S. travel and tourism and developing a national tourism strategy.

The board met in New Orleans to reiterate the administration's support for rebuilding of the Gulf Coast Region on all levels.

The U.S. travel and tourism industry is the largest services sector export for the U.S. economy, responsible for nearly 8 million jobs in the United States. In 2004, the United States experienced the first year of double-digit growth in international arrivals since 1992.