PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The COVID-19 pandemic brought Arizona's crucial tourism industry to a screeching halt.

"Travel stopped. People stopped visiting. Events stopped overnight, so it was as if a water faucet just literally turned off overnight," said Kim Sabow, CEO and President of Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association.

The losses are staggering. With no spring break, spring training, shopping, eating out and hotels that go along with it, our state has taken a $1.5 billion loss in visitor spending.

Sabow says the tourism industry was the first to feel the effects of the pandemic right at our busiest and most critical time of the year.

She says businesses were hit so quickly and so deeply, it forced immediate furloughs, layoffs and even closures in order to hang on to any kind of cash flow.

"If we don't come up with lifelines for these businesses, some of them face permanent closure. We just can't have that happen in Arizona. Tourism is the lifeblood of our economy," explains Sabow.

She says right now, their goal is to advocate for those businesses to be able to keep their hands on the liquidity and cash they have, so they can hopefully weather the storm and remain afloat until the crisis passes and leaders can begin to contemplate a reopening of the economy.

Sabow says when things do start to open back up, safety is paramount. She is confident the industry will meet all of the guidelines and protocols and rebuild consumer confidence so people can start moving again and hopefully rebound better than ever.


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