By Rachael Cardin

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Restaurant owners, hotel managers, tourism industry workers might be down but do not count them out. The entire industry is trying to recharge so they can come back from this pandemic stronger than ever.

The tourism industry in Maryland generates billions in tax revenue and provides thousands of jobs. Chris Riehl, Board Chair of the Maryland Tourism Coalition, encouraged Marylanders to take staycations, dine out, support local businesses and events.

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“Everybody can be a tourist and contribute to the economic engine,” Riehl said.

Governor Larry Hogan granted more than $200 million in financial aid for the workers of the hospitality industry. Business owners hope to continue generating the billions of dollars they usually contribute to the economy along with 150,000 jobs.

“We know we’re not all the way back, we still have a long road ahead of us, but we’ve made it this far and we’re excited about what the next couple of months have to offer.,” Riehl said.

Casey Jenkins owns “Darker than Blue Grill” in downtown Baltimore. Jenkins said they have taken their hits but learned to pivot and are now focused on keeping their limited staff by incentivizing them with education benefits and higher pay so doors can stay open and tourism can come back in full force.

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“It’s been an incredibly tough two years, but I think we’re starting to come out of it and showing everyone Maryland is open for business,” he said.

Riehl said if tourism were to vanish, Maryland taxpayers would have to pay more than $1,000 more per household to support funding for the many things our state needs.

“That tax revenue can be used to fund other priorities like education and public safety and infrastructure,” he added.

Back in May members of Visit Baltimore and the Maryland Tourism Coalition met with state leaders, putting a spotlight on the challenges Covid-19 brought to the tourism industry. Unemployment numbers in the hospitality industry were double those of the Great Depression.

Marylanders are encouraged to stay local, go out to dinner, spend money on events within the state to generate the funds we desperately need to help our economy.

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Managers of restaurants, hotels and event venues said they feel they can offer customers enjoyable and safe experiences at their places of business.

Rachael Cardin