How the travel industry goes beyond cruise lines and hotel associations to benefit employees, small businesses and the economy.

“How are you doing?” “What’s new?” “Have you been on any good trips recently?” Whether asked with genuine interest or simply as a play from a networking 101 toolkit, travel works its way into conversations more than almost any other topic.

May 5-11, 2019, is National Travel and Tourism Week. Tourism industry partners from around the county came together this week to celebrate the trade and advocate its advancement. This year’s theme is “Travel Matters” and promotes American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being.

Travel creates opportunities to experience new people, places and things, and leaves a lasting impact on people’s lives. Unfortunately, according to brand experience innovator Dustin Garis, the average person only remembers three days out of the past month. After years of analyzing data, Garis determined that “life is not measured by the days you live, but by the days that you remember.”

From the hours of travel planning to the countless experiences along the way, it’s no surprise that travel time stands out in memories and dominates conversations. Talking about shared travel experiences helps people connect with friends, family and colleagues. Posting about these experiences on social media inspires people’s followers to choose similar adventures.

Why travel matters

Growing up in Galveston, Texas, I learned early on the importance of travel and hospitality. Each summer, I watched as visitors from near and far came to explore the island community I call home. A perk of living there was finding seasonal employment was always easy. I officially dove into the tourism industry at age 15 when I became a lifeguard at Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston.

At Schlitterbahn, I worked alongside visiting students from other schools as well as Germany, Romania and many other countries. I learned that the Galveston Convention & Visitors Bureau has an employment program to help international students find seasonal work in the tourism industry.

Although I was only in high school, I earned money, met new people, supported my local economy and entertained visitors from around the world. At work, people wanted to know where to go for dinner or shopping after the waterpark. I happily told anyone who asked where to find my favorite restaurants and other “hidden gems.”

I developed a passion for sharing my hometown’s history and culture. Tourism experts would refer to that as being an “engaged local.” I just called myself a Galvestonian.

I now work at Thompson & Co. PR’s Houston office where we support the agency’s travel and tourism clients. I’ve seen how travel positively impacts the people and economy of communities that I love. As a T&Cer, I am proud to share why travel matters to me, my company, our clients and our communities.

How travel benefits employees

Visiting new places and getting out of town helps people relax and refresh. Investing in travel promotes personal wellbeing and is linked to physical and mental health benefits. Nearly half of all Americans are stressed at work, which can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure. According to The New York Times, taking a vacation every two years reduces the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

Paid time off is also an important employee benefit that shouldn’t be sacrificed. In 2018, Americans gave up 705 million vacation days and forfeited 212 million. This means they couldn’t be rolled over or paid out – equating to $62.2 billion in lost benefits. The U.S. Travel Association launched Project: Time Off to encourage people to reap the benefits from vacation days.

Here are the top barriers to travel and unused vacation days among groups who rank each concern, according to USTA:

  • Fear of looking replaceable: 61%
  • Too heavy of workload: 56%
  • Lack of coverage at work: 56%
  • Pets: 54%
  • Logistical hassles of traveling: 54%
  • Concerns about safety and security while traveling: 54%
  • Cost: 53%
  • Children: 52%
  • Being away from regular routine: 52%

How travel benefits employers

Using vacation days improves a company’s bottom line, despite employees’ concerns about being #OOO. According to  Fast Company, Americans work an average of 7.8% more hours annually than in the 1970s.

Vacation time reduces stress and employees return recharged and motivated. Encouraging employees to maximize vacation time alleviates burnout and makes employees feel valued.

The Harvard Business Review found that employees who used all or most vacation time are more likely to earn promotions. Vacation and PTO days aren’t just good for individual business owners, though. They benefit the overall economy.

How travel benefits Alaska’s economy

The travel industry is the seventh largest employer in America and accounts for one in 10 jobs nationwide. In Alaska, that number is even higher. The cruising sector alone is estimated to bring 1.2 million visitors to Alaska this year, according to Cruise Industry News.

A rising tide lifts all boats and benefits T&C and our tourism clients, like the Alaska Travel Industry Association, Visit Anchorage and Alaska Railroad. But it doesn’t stop there.

Each summer, the Alaska Railroad hires 140 employees to meet the increased summer demand. Hotels bring in seasonal workers. Restaurants order more food from local farmers.

As Alaska continues to welcome more than 2.25 million people, it sees an average economic impact of $2.2 billion. Travel and tourism in Alaska has continuously grown for the past four years and is expected to attract more visitors and travel revenue.

How travel benefits Texas’ economy

Working closely alongside Visit Houston and the Galveston Chamber of Commerce, we’ve learned more about the Texas travel industry. In 2018, Galveston welcomed a record-high 7.2 million visitors that produced $1.2 billion in travel revenue. The 2018 impact in Houston jumped to 22.3 billion visitors, $80 billion in travel revenue and $1.2 billion in tax revenue. Gulf Coast tourism also accounted for 27% of all Texas travel spending.

Despite some misconceptions, travel doesn’t just benefit large corporations. Eighty-three percent of travel companies, travel agencies and tour operators are considered small businesses. Taxes generated from hotels, transportation, liquor sales and other travel expenses are used to support the local community.

In Galveston, revenue generated from parking fees supports organizations like the Galveston Park Board and Texans For The Arts. This allows cities to build infrastructure and install programming that benefits visitors and residents alike.

If the Alaska and Texas economic impacts aren’t enough to convince you that #TravelMatters, check out the nationwide impact from the travel sector.

America’s 2018 travel impact:

  • 80 million international travelers visited the U.S.
  • $2.5 trillion in travel revenue.
  • $171 billion in tax revenue.
  • $1,340 average household tax increase if travel revenue disappeared.
  • 15.7 million jobs in America.

Join the conversation by sharing your story about experiences, jobs, infrastructure, health benefits, hometown pride and how travel strengthens families.

Get social by tagging the National Travel Association using #nttw19 and #TravelMatters.

Megan O’Malley, Thompson & Co.

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