Planning a trip sometime soon? You probably think that if you are, you’re doing it just to show yourself—maybe your immediate family—a good time. But when you pack your bags and travel, you’re providing extraordinary benefit for the economy, job creation, your own health and that of your loved ones—and even your performance in the workplace.
Don’t worry: a huge body of research backs you up on this. So if you think you’re just ditching the office for a week, give yourself a pat on the back instead.
The U.S. travel industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has recovered far faster than other economic sectors from jobs lost to the recession. Travel supports one out of nine jobs and generated $2.1 trillion in economic output in 2014. Lest you think most of that benefit went to places like New York, Orlando and Las Vegas, right here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex we saw more than 44 million visitors last year. Our area is now home to more than 75,000 hotel rooms and our two airports provide more than 2,000 flights daily. The Metroplex is the number one visitor and leisure destination in Texas.
In an era when bad news about the U.S. trade imbalance is the norm, not everyone realizes that travel is among the top-performing American exports. It counts as an export because when international travelers visit the U.S., they are spending foreign currency on U.S. goods and services. Travel now accounts for fully 10 percent of U.S. exports, in fact—the country’s secondlargest industry export. And the best part? Travel jobs cannot be outsourced—all the jobs supported by inbound international travel are right here in the United States.
But the good news about travel is not all in economic facts and figures. Travel also holds remarkable positives for our personal lives.
Couples that travel together are more likely to make it past the five-year mark and less likely to divorce, according to a survey from the U.S. Travel Association and Edge Research. More than 90 percent of kids see family vacations as a chance for “quality time” with their parents. What’s more, kids who travel are more likely to earn a college degree, and have on average a $5,000 higher median income as adults. People who travel are also less stressed and happier at work. Eight in 10 senior citizens say travel makes them feel energized.
Given the extraordinary effect of travel, and in light of National Travel and Tourism Week, (May 2-10, 2015), we should seek more avenues to support and expand the industry.
Modernizing our travel infrastructure is one critical step. Not a single U.S. airport is ranked in the top 25 in the world. Even though Americans are traveling in impressive numbers, trips they decided not to take because of hassles in the air travel system cost the economy more than $35 billion in 2013. The user fee structure that funds capital projects at major airports has not been indexed for inflation since 2000; if that were corrected, airports could modernize our World War II-era air traffic control system and expand terminal space—which would improve prices and service for customers because new carriers could enter markets and compete with the Big Three airlines.
We should also encourage the American workforce to use their time off. In 2013, Americans left 429 million days unused (the least amount of vacation in nearly 40 years) and forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits. If workers took just one more day off each year, travel would generate an extra $73 billion annually for the economy. Heck, at Service Metrics Group, we've quite literally pushed people out the door who we feel might need a little time to themselves.
Travel is making a difference on our communities and lives every day. Take time to celebrate travel next week and see how you can help make this industry even stronger for America’s businesses, workforce and general state of mind.