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Tourism downturn affects Public Events Department and event venues

Posted May 6, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a projected $14 million drop in the city’s Culture and Tourism Fund revenues for the current fiscal year, and the city’s Public Events Department is adapting until the fund can recover.

In March and April, hospitality and venue tax collections collapsed, which in turn had a significant impact on the city’s Culture and Tourism Fund. Public Events Director Mike Crum estimated that it may take two to three years for the fund to recover to 2019 levels.

The future of meetings and conventions is unknown, with Crum predicting a 50% drop in attendance through the end of the current fiscal year in September, then a 30% drop into the following year. Also unknown: attendance at future sports and entertainment events as limits on mass gatherings continue. This could affect bookings and revenue for venues like Dickies Arena, the Fort Worth Convention Center, Will Rogers Memorial Center, Bass Hall and others.

For the next two fiscal years, the Culture and Tourism Fund will be able to meet its debt service obligation. However, future capital projects assisted by the fund will be suspended until a recovery is seen.

To help handle the significant decrease in funds, the Public Events Department is eliminating discretionary spending (part of a citywide effort), focusing on reducing labor expenses, eliminating temporary labor and forbidding overtime pay.

In addition, City Manager David Cooke said the city “has made the difficult decision to declare a continuous furlough period for employees in the Public Events Department. The designated furlough period will begin on May 16, 2020, and is expected to last through July 31, 2020. At this time, this is the only department that is part of the furlough.”

The furlough affects 79 employees.

Crum said the city will rely on “maintaining Visit Fort Worth’s capacity to lead the recovery through effective sales and marketing.”

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