Rosen Leads Tourism Subcommittee Hearing, Highlights Nevada’s Sustainable Tourism Industry

Watch Senator Rosen’s opening remarks HERE.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), chair of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, led a hearing to examine how to build a sustainable travel and tourism sector that also protects natural resources and ensures responsible development. The hearing focused on how to balance the needs of businesses, visitors, and local communities to support sustainable tourism. During the hearing, Senator Rosen highlighted Nevada’s outdoor recreation industry, including at Lake Tahoe, Great Basin National Park, and Avi Kwa Ame National Monument.

Witnesses for the hearing included Executive Director of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Julie Regan; Global ESG and Head of Sustainability at Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Jean Garris Hand; and Director of WNC: Made By Mountains Partnership, Amy Allison.

Senator Rosen has been a champion for Nevada’s travel and tourism economy. Earlier this year, she hosted a field hearing in Las Vegas that examined ways to attract large sporting and entertainment events to the U.S., with a focus on Las Vegas’ experience, and the impacts that sporting and live entertainment events have on the local economy. Last year, Senator Rosen passed the bipartisan Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act to boost the travel and tourism industry.

Below are Senator Rosen’s opening remarks as delivered:

Good morning everyone, and welcome to the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion. Today’s hearing titled, “Sustainability for a Thriving Tourism Economy,” will examine how to build a sustainable travel and tourism sector that integrates protecting our natural resources, supporting the tourism economy, and ensuring responsible infrastructure development. Additionally, this hearing will focus on how to balance the needs of businesses, visitors, and local communities to support sustainable tourism, including businesses centered around outdoor recreation.

The outdoor recreation industry contributes $778 billion. I’m going to repeat that – $778 billion – in economic output nationally and supports a whopping 5.2 million American jobs. That’s amazing. And it’s from guides and outfitters to manufacturers, small business owners, and so much more.  

Outdoor recreation is a major contributor to Nevada’s economy. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation in Nevada generates over $5.5 billion in economic output annually and is directly responsible for 60,000 jobs, nearly 60,000 jobs. And, Nevada’s natural wonders – every state has them, I know – but Nevada’s natural wonders bring people from across the country and around the world to see our mountains, our deserts, our lakes, and our wildlife. Over 80% of our state is managed by the federal government. These public lands and waters and our twenty-four state parks offer diverse opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors, including hiking, camping, boating, hunting, skiing, stargazing, or attending outdoor cultural events. 

In Southern Nevada, we have many beautiful places and recreation opportunities just minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip – from Red Rock National Conservation Area to the Valley of Fire and, of course, Lake Mead. 

Nevada is also proud of our national monuments, from Tule Springs and its prehistoric fossils to Avi Kwa Ame, which was just designated a national monument earlier this year after a push that Senator Cortez Masto and I led. Two of our national monuments – Gold Butte and Basin and Range – are in remote and rugged areas. They’re full of petroglyphs that people from all over the country and around the world come to see. Our monuments are therefore critical for both preserving tribal culture and public lands and for supporting our outdoor tourism economy.

Developing outdoor recreation opportunities in and near Nevada’s rural communities is an important way to increase tourism spending and support local businesses. Places like Jarbidge Wilderness Area or the Ruby Mountains in Elko County attract outdoor enthusiasts and backcountry hikers and hunters. In Lander County, the Battle Mountain Human Powered Vehicle Speed Challenge is a fixture of the tourism season in Battle Mountain. Black Rock Desert in western Nevada, well, it’s home to Burning Man, but also offers opportunities year-round, including rock climbing and land speed racing. 

White Pine County in eastern Nevada is also a hub for outdoor recreation and tourism, with Great Basin National Park featuring ancient bristlecone pines, the Lehman Caves, and unparalleled views of the night sky, some of the darkest skies in the country right in Nevada.

In fact, the Great Basin Star Train – which I was thrilled to ride a couple of years ago – transports visitors from Ely to the park, bringing in dollars to the local community. From “Park to Park After Dark,” the initiative is building on this success and encouraging astro-tourism along Highway 6 from Death Valley National Park to Great Basin National Park.   

Of course, then we have Lake Tahoe, one of the world’s most beautiful and clearest bodies of water, attracting 15 million visitors each year for its various outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing, water sports, biking, camping, and hiking. Through this, Tahoe anchors a $5.1 billion economy and supports hundreds and hundreds of jobs.

With a local population of about 54,000 in the Basin and another 17,000 in Truckee, protecting the quality of the Tahoe experience while advancing the needs of the region’s communities and its visitor and recreation-based economy is a tremendous challenge. Today, I look forward to hearing about the essential and successful and collaborative work of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to balance tourism and conservation interests in the region. 

Now, as the Tahoe region faces mounting challenges and impacts from tourism and recreation – its primary economic engine – its stakeholders and community members have come together to establish a shared vision for Tahoe’s future and commit to finding solutions. And I’m looking forward to all of us learning more about all of our witnesses today.

And, our witnesses, they come from various fields, and they are experts in their fields. And we have representation from: 

  • The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the first environmental interstate compact agency of its kind in the United States, charged with the environmental protection of Lake Tahoe.
  • Hilton Hotels, a leader in sustainable hospitality that has made available for us today their Global Head of Sustainability, 
  • And “Western North Carolina: Made by Mountains Partnership” – a leader in the outdoor recreation industry. 

It’s my hope that today’s hearing will help us better understand the opportunities and the challenges for creating more sustainable tourism, and supporting our thriving outdoor recreation industry. I also hope to discuss ways to support our small businesses, our local communities, our public lands and waters, well, through targeted investments. And I look forward to hearing each of the witnesses share their experiences and expertise with us.