Our neighbors need us. No, not your next-door neighbors, or your neighbor down the street, or that one neighbor who always brings you an assortment of Christmas cookies. Your neighboring towns, villages, cities, and communities are in dire need of our visitation and our company, and the immediate post-COVID world will give you the best opportunity to travel to small towns and off-the-beaten-path experiences to help America’s communities begin the long road to economic recovery.
In 2019, travel in the United States generated $2.6 trillion for the U.S. economy and supported over 15 million American jobs – that is 1 in 10 American jobs in the private sector supported by travel. However, with the quarantining measures suggested due to COVID exposure, Americans simply are not traveling like they used to. While that is certainly great in tempering the spread of the virus, it marks a decidedly disastrous low point for the country’s tourism economy, eclipsing the impact 9/11 had on the travel industry. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that nearly 12 million U.S. jobs may be lost due to the economic fallout of the pandemic, and since the beginning of March 2020, the COVID pandemic has resulted in over $500 billion in losses for the U.S. travel economy. Things, for lack of a better word, are grim.
However, as the vaccine for COVID continues rolling out in communities across the country, economic recovery can begin in earnest. More importantly, it is an economic recovery we can all genuinely enjoy participating in. Travel and tourism leaders across the private sector have been diligent in addressing safety in our COVID world, providing for traveler safety, sanitation for their workforce, and embracing new technologies that have made travel easier.
Tourists travel in search of places with an interesting environment, plenty of activities, and unique food offerings – something that is immediately accessible in almost every destination in this country. Undoubtedly, these are the same attributes of any destinations that excite you. As a traveler, it is easy to get lost in the idea of big, grand vacations to major destinations and cities, but the small towns in our own proverbial backyard can provide just as unique and fascinating of an experience without the major expense of a big city. With over 19,000 incorporated communities in the United States, you are likely within an hour drive of dozens of weekend-trip possibilities – a great option if you want to avoid air travel or to keep travel costs down. Even if you live in a major city and are without a car, buses and trains can get you where you need to be quickly and cheaply.
More importantly, you can keep costs extraordinarily low for a weekend-getaway close to home while providing your family or friends with an incredible experience. Prior to the COVID pandemic, the average cost of a four-night vacation in the United States was about $581. Slice that in half for a weekend-getaway and coupled with the seemingly endless deals hotels are providing for immediate travel bookings, you have yourself an affordable journey to a new, nearby destination with memories that will last a lifetime.
Ultimately, every trip you take will drastically help that destination’s local economy impacting nearly every type of business. Every dollar you spend at a local restaurant supports the staff and that business’s longevity. Each fee you pay to enter a museum or attraction goes to support additional programming that benefits residents and travelers alike. For every night spent at a hotel, that community sees additional tax revenue that goes directly to support the needs of its residents.
And it’s not simply your obvious tourist attractions and restaurants that are supported. Forget some essentials on your trip and need to stop at a convenience store? That is travel spending that brings in revenue for the community. Need a snack for your trip home? Thank that community’s local grocery store by spending a few bucks on a tasty treat. Did you pick up a free brochure from that museum you visited? You have likely helped a small, locally owned printer who partners with that attraction.
Nationally, every $1 million in sales of these travel goods and services directly generates eight jobs for the travel and tourism industry. The tax revenues generated by such spending further help that community you visited by giving its local government more resources to help that community thrive. Every dollar you spend on fun and entertainment is a dollar that directly helps economic recovery.
Whether it is a small town just down the road or a great adventure several hours away, every trip you take in the coming months will help our nation recover and thrive. The future of our economy depends on life returning to normal, and there is nothing more normal or needed now that America to start traveling again. You don’t even need to spend a single dollar to start helping right away. Travel planning is invigorating and thinking about all the experiences you can have can boost your spirit and give you something fun to do. Start looking at your next travel destination now – you never know where it will take you.