Let’s keep America traveling

Published 10:11 pm Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can you afford to pay $988 more in taxes each year?

Whether you answer yes or no, there are probably other things you could be doing with that money.

This amount is exactly the premium that every U.S. household would be forced to pay without the $115 billion in tax revenue that the travel and tourism industry generates nationally.

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Recently, travel has been in trouble, and that’s bad news for our city, our economy and our workers.

The weak economy has led some individuals and families to curtail or eliminate their vacation plans.

To make matters worse, the actions of a few high-profile companies who received government bailout funds have created a toxic environment where mischaracterizations of travel for meetings and events is leading every company in America to think twice about sending its employees on business travel.

The unintended consequences of less travel and tourism are devastating for our economy.

Mass cancellations of legitimate business travel as well as meetings and events around the country have already cost thousands of hotel and hospitality industry employees their jobs, while many more remain concerned about their futures.

Between January 1 and February 28, meeting and event cancellations from just 20 percent of the lodging industry exceeded $220 million nationally, which has resulted in cut hours and lost jobs.

Travel and tourism plays a critical role in the nation’s economy as one of America’s largest industries.

In fact $740 billion was spent by domestic and international travelers in 2007.

Travel is among one of the top 10 industries in 49 states in terms of employment, and one of every eight U.S. jobs is created directly or indirectly by travel and tourism.

It’s not surprising to anyone that in tough economic times, business and leisure travel suffers.

We’ve been through bad times before, many times over. But the downturn we are experiencing today is much different.

The heated words of an influential few in Washington, D.C. have made an already difficult situation much worse, and it may cause both business and leisure travelers to hold off booking trips for a while, which is something this country – and the local workers and communities that rely on travel and tourism – just can’t afford.

Here in the Tri-State region the travel industry employs a substantial amount of people and contributes employment income and tax dollars to the local economy.

Many of these are behind the scene low profile yet decent paying local jobs.

May 9 through May 17 has been designated as National Travel and Tourism Week and throughout the nation cities will be showcasing the industry’s diverse, vibrant workforce, which includes everyone from travel agents, hotel employees, restaurant workers, park rangers, cab drivers and meeting planners.

The bottom line here is that TRAVEL MATTERS to both nationally, regionally and locally.

There may have been some irresponsible spending by big business but to ground the entire travel and tourism industry based on these extremes is even more irresponsible.

Your hard earned travel dollars whether spent for business or pleasure reasons is what is required to support a critical industry, to help keep hardworking Americans employed and to help sustain the nation’s economy.

To help bolster our local economy we need to become passionate ambassadors of local travel and tourism venues and attractions region by telling friends, relatives and anyone who will listen that this is a great place to visit, offers a great value and to SPEND THEIR MONEY.

We need to suggest that businesses, clubs and organizations hold their meetings locally instead of outsourcing them.

Offer to hold the district garden club, the regional Rotary Club or some other type of meeting/convention that will draw people to your community.

Let’s work together to generate tourism dollars in our community for our community.

Your comments, observations and questions will be gladly accepted at thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Steve Call, CTC, CCC, DS, Ironton, 740-532-6608.