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Virtual Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the NOAA Travel and Tourism Listening Session


Thank you for that introduction, Dr. Spinrad, and for your incredible leadership at NOAA. And thank you to the NOAA team for organizing this listening session, and to all of you for participating. I’m excited to join you.

According to data from NOAA, the United States experienced 20 separate billion-dollar disasters in 2021, with damages totaling $145 billion.

These events are becoming more frequent and more expensive, and they’re having long-lasting negative impacts on our economy. As climate change continues to drive extreme weather events, the costs will only increase.

Your sector is all too familiar with the effects of climate-driven extreme events. The December 2021 letter I received from the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board noted that “there’s no question climate change is a profound threat to the stability of America’s travel and tourism economy.”

Climate change is affecting where, when, and how people travel.

Droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes are impacting travel destinations and disrupting critical infrastructure. Changes in seasonality are putting entire tourist seasons at risk. Sea level rise is threatening some of our most treasured places along the coasts. And the oceans – which are central to our blue economy – are being harmed.

In 2019, your industries generated $1.1 trillion in visitor spending and supported 9 million jobs across the U.S. The bottom line is that your bottom line, and the prosperity of our communities that rely on tourism, is at major risk due to climate change.

The tourism sector also contributes to an estimated 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation responsible for the majority of that. I am pleased to see that mitigation efforts are underway across the sector.

As Secretary of Commerce, addressing climate change and building a climate-ready nation that is prosperous in the face of these changes are among my top priorities.

But we know that we can’t solve this crisis alone. We need your input and partnership to ensure that the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sector continues to thrive in the face of climate change. In the process, we can create millions of good-paying jobs.

And we’ll do it in an inclusive, equitable manner, recognizing that our diversity is a competitive advantage.

I hope you’ll view the Commerce Department as a resource and ally. We want to make sure your voices are being heard at the federal level.

I am confident that Dr. Spinrad and NOAA stand ready to help you become climate-ready with their data and expertise.

Thank you again for participating in today’s discussion. With that, let me turn it back over to Dr. Spinrad.