During 2015, direct spending in the United States by resident and international travelers averaged $2.6 billion a day, $108.1 million an hour, $1.8 million a minute, and $30,033 a second, according to the U.S. Travel Association. That should be enough to alert any business owner or government official to the importance of travel in America today.
That spending supported 5.7 million jobs and generated nearly $100 billion in tax revenue without requiring major ongoing public outlays for schools and many other tax-supported services. It also points to the huge, often-unseen, impact of natural disasters, and even acts of terrorism, on communities.
Our new home is less than a mile from the flood devastation that happened in Ellicott City, Md., just days before I wrote these words. Fortunately, we are on very high ground, but the businesses in historic Ellicott City, and their employees, depended in large measure on tourism. It will be a long time before those businesses will be rebuilt and the Howard County tourism folks, whose offices and visitor center are in Ellicott City, have a tough job ahead of them.
Earlier this spring, floods also hit the Greenbrier River Valley of West Virginia, a prime tourism area for the state, closing even the storied Greenbrier Resort for a time. Tourism dollars lost can’t be recovered easily.
I began full-time work in the tourism industry in 2000 and shortly thereafter saw firsthand the impact of the 9/11 attacks and the Washington Beltway sniper on tourism and travel.
While we can’t control Mother Nature and have limited control over acts of international or domestic terror, we can insist that our elected officials support tourism efforts and, when needed, support local tourism businesses and employees ourselves when the unexpected happens.
In this election year, do you know where your candidates at all levels stand on tourism?
Coming next month
Artists’ studio tours
Fall in the Historic Triangle
Regional wine and other libations