Virginia’s tourism industry is under increasing threat from the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, according to a report published Monday by the state’s tourism bureau.
The Bureau of Tourism’s latest update on tourism outlook in the state, released Monday, also warned that the threat to Virginia’s industry has grown to a level that threatens the health and safety of the state tourism workers, said Mark Zantofsky, executive director of the Virginia Tourism Development Authority.
The bureau said it had received more than 400 reports of serious threats, including the shooting of a tourist, an attack on a bus driver, and a man who stabbed two Virginia Department of Transportation troopers in a shooting spree on Monday.
Zantofky said the threat level has “increased significantly” in the past year, but said it is too soon to say if the threat will continue to grow.
The state has had more than 800 fatalities in the last 10 years, and the bureau expects those numbers to climb in the coming months.
Zant ofsky said the spike in deaths was partly due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is likely related to increased traffic in the area and the increased presence of anti-government protesters.
“The Virginia tourism industry, which is the most vulnerable to the virus, has been the most affected,” he said.
Zantsky said Virginia was also facing a significant economic hit, especially in the areas of agriculture and tourism, because of the influx of tourists and workers who arrive in the capital to work on construction projects.
The Virginia Department Of Transportation is the state agency that oversees the Commonwealth’s tourism infrastructure, and it has been shuttered and has been temporarily closed due to high traffic.ZANTOFSKI said the shutdown of the DOT in September was also part of a broader strategy by the Trump administration to slow economic growth in the Commonwealth.
The Trump administration announced a major increase in border security and increased immigration enforcement in March, and Trump is expected to sign executive orders to increase the number of deportations and restrict travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals who are convicted of crimes.
The administration is also considering a ban on Muslim immigration and a temporary ban on the entry of refugees and immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern and African countries.
The new DHS plan will likely be in place in the near future, said Zant.ZAntonio G. Gomez, the governor of Virginia, said the DOT and the Virginia Department OF Transportation have been working to close the state travel lanes, and he said it would be a “catastrophic mistake” if the agency closes the entire state travel system.
“We are working very closely with Virginia DOT to keep our state tourism industry safe and to provide them the resources they need to succeed in the future,” Gomez said in a statement.
Zante ofsky told The Associated Press that he was confident that Virginia will be able to handle the increased number of visitors.
“I’m sure they will be fine,” he told the AP.
“But the danger is the same as it was before.
If you look at the threats, it’s always there.”
Alicia Lopez is a reporter for The Associated News.