US Travel Association tool highlights ripple effect of spending on tourism promotion

Years ago, the US travel industry was the Rodney Dangerfield of commerce: Although it was the second largest employer in the nation, it got no respect from government officials.

But the industry “has come a long way, at least on the national level,” David Huether, senior vice president for research at the US Travel Association, said. It is no longer viewed simply as a well to dip into for increased taxes or as target of budget cuts.

The association now has created an online interactive tool designed to tackle misperceptions of the industry’s impact on the state level.

Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of USTA, said the tool will enable decision-makers to see how small changes in visitation — up or down — can have significant effects for states and communities.

“Unfortunately, we have seen this scenario play out in states like Washington, Colorado and Pennsylvania, whose legislatures made a misguided decision to cut tourism promotion budgets dramatically and cost their states tens of thousands of jobs as a result.”

The state legislature in Florida – a state that ought to understand the importance of tourism – continues to attempt to cut the Visit Florida budget.

In Missouri, site of the Gateway Arch that commemorates westward expansion, birthplace of Mark Twain’s most famous novels and home to one of the world’s most spectacular botanical gardens, the eight welcome centers near the state’s borders have had to shut down on weekends – not the best time to stop welcoming tourists – after the governor slashed funding for the Missouri Division of Tourism by 47%.

“It’s alarming to see state legislatures in Florida and Missouri put forth proposals to dramatically reduce their tourism marketing budgets when the return on investment is so clear. Just a 1% or 2% decline in travel spending can disrupt a state’s economy at every level,” Dow said.

The US Travel Association is hoping its new tool, the Travel Economic Impact Calculator, will enlighten state officials on how tourism promotional spending benefits not only the travel industry but directly supports public sector jobs like firefighters, police officers and public school teachers as well, Huether said.

Nationwide, in 2016 the travel industry generated $72 billion in local and state tax revenue — enough to pay for the salaries of:
• All 987,000 state and local police and firefighters across the U.S., or
• All 1.1 million secondary school teachers, or
• 1.2 million (88%) elementary school teachers.

The tool draws from the association’s vast database of information about tourism throughout the country, both international arrivals and domestic travel.

Using a slider, a user can adjust filters to get beyond the usual arrivals numbers and see how promoting tourism can affect employees’ lives on a long-term basis, Huether said.

For example, “people have lots of reasons for working part-time,” he said. It might fir better into the family schedule, or it might simply be the only employment available.

“But the No. 1 reason people work part-time is to help pay for their education.”

What is compelling is that once part-time workers graduate and move on to full-time employment, they tend to earn more than part-timers in other industries – a factor that has beneficial implications for a state’s overall economy.

Huether said the association is developing some other interactive elements with a focus on the “ripple effect” of tourism promotion.

The US Travel tool is one of several that has been developed to track tourists and their expenditures, along with the data that show that the return on investment exists.

Most recently, Amadeus teamed up with Dubai to help the city develop insights into visitor arrivals. Dubai Tourism will use the platform of travel audience, an Amadeus unit that works with advanced data analytics to convert visitors.


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Michele McDonald

About the Writer :: Michele McDonald

Michele McDonald is a senior editor at Tnooz. She has worked as a journalist covering the travel industry for more than two decades.

She is a former managing editor of Travel Weekly (US) and former editor-in-chief of Travel Distribution Report.

In 2002, she founded Travel Technology Update, a newsletter for distribution professionals. She remains editor and publisher of Travel Technology Update. She also contributes to Air Transport World.



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