(NEW YORK) – A festival in New Orleans. Concerts in Nashville, Tennessee. A comic book convention in Atlanta. As the delta variant increases across the country, states with low COVID vaccination rates are reeling from a loss of tourism dollars due to cancellations and postponements of major events.
Of the 11 states with vaccination rates below 50%, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia have canceled baseline events, costing local and national economies roughly hundreds of millions of dollars, officials say.
On August 9, organizers of New Orleans’s Jazz and Heritage Festival announced that the annual festival would be canceled for the second year in a row, citing “the current exponential growth of new COVID cases in New Orleans and the region.”
The Louisiana Department of Health supported this concern in a recent interview with ABC News.
“Here in Louisiana, we are in our fourth and most dangerous outbreak to date, fueled by our low vaccination rate and the highly transmissible Delta variant. Our hospitals are overwhelmed, ”said a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health.
As of August 20, less than 39% of the state’s population was fully immunized.
In an emailed statement to ABC News, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser estimated that canceling the festival will cost the region more than $ 300 million, on top of the $ 5 billion the state lost in tourism revenue during the pandemic.
“The second postponement of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will have a long term negative impact on tourism, not only the $ 300 million direct economic impact, but also for the events leading up to and during the two week event.” , Nungesser wrote.
“This means that the bands and musicians who perform in the evening at local hot spots and the ‘mom and pop’ businesses that depend on the Jazz Fest for much of their annual income for the year, will not have the opportunity to earn that money again this year, ”he added.
In Tennessee, the urban economies of Nashville and Memphis continue to slow due to declines in conventions, business and international travel, and concerts, according to the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development.
In the past year, Tennessee’s tourism revenues have declined 26%, resulting in a loss of more than $ 4.1 billion in the entertainment and hospitality industry, according to the Tennessee Department of Revenue and the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development.
“Accommodation was the most affected category, followed by leisure. Accommodation, of course, relies on group travel to our larger metropolitan areas, so large cities have felt this impact much more than our areas that rely on leisure travel, ”a department spokesperson said. of Tennessee Tourism.
Earlier this year, big indoor events like the annual Country Music Awards were canceled in Tennessee, but big outdoor events like the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival will continue with special precautions in place, such as proof. vaccination or a negative test 72 hours before the event. .
In Georgia, the organizers of Fandemic Dead – a comic book convention for fans of the “The Walking Dead” television series – announced on August 13 that the convention would be postponed to March 2022 due to concerns about the delta variant.
“While this decision was not taken lightly, it was taken in an effort to help keep our community safe,” organizers said in a press release. “The health and safety of fans, panelists, exhibitors, artists and staff is our top priority. “
In an emailed statement to ABC News, Georgia’s Department of Economic Development said the state’s tourism industry has been “devastated” by COVID-19, leaving tax revenue generated from travel and tourism. local taxes down by more than $ 640 million during the pandemic.
Despite the losses, Georgia Ministry of Economic Development Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Mark Jaronski praised Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s support for the tourism industry.
“The leadership of Governor Brian Kemp and our General Assembly has given our tourism industry the license to operate,” Jaronski said. “We are not immune to the challenges facing destinations around the world, but we have been successful in maximizing existing travel business and leveraging it to increase Georgia’s share of domestic travel and economic position. “
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.