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National Travel and Tourism Week Is May 7-13

Event highlights industry’s role in fueling U.S. Economy

By Kathy Gibbons

National Travel and Tourism Week May 7-13 aims to celebrate the role of national travel and tourism in stimulating the nation’s economy. CREDIT Adobe Stock

U.S. Travel is marking the 40th anniversary of National Travel and Tourism Week, set for May 7-13 this year.

The event was founded in 1983 to celebrate the role of national travel and tourism in stimulating the U.S. economy by fueling business and fostering job growth as well as offering people opportunities to expand their horizons whether traveling for business or pleasure.

“The travel industry is every industry,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman says in a recent speech at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism. “We’re the backbone of every industry.”

According to the association, national travel and tourism accounted for $1.2 trillion in direct spending in 2022. Twenty percent of that is from business travel—both transient and group, says Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president, public affairs and policy, for the U.S. Travel Association. Also in 2022, meetings and events generated nearly $100 billion in travel spending in the U.S.

“The benefits of business travel range from the tangible to intangible—benefiting local economies and businesses while simultaneously fueling individual growth, long-lasting connections, and mutual respect,” Barnes says. “Further, meetings, conventions and events are critical components of the economy—think about the opportunities that come from auto shows, for example—the opportunity to bring together media, suppliers, consumers, and auto leaders themselves. These types of gatherings help business to thrive across many industries.”

This year’s National Travel and Tourism Week is focusing on the role travel plays in driving economic growth and innovation with the theme, #TravelForward. The industry is still recovering from the pandemic and U.S. Travel is working to help accelerate the comeback and advocate for improvements that include enhancing the air travel experience and reducing wait times for noncitizens to get visas to travel to the U.S.

Freeman noted in his speech, “In many cases, what leisure travel needs is not the same as what group travel needs or business travel needs.”

As Barnes explains, leisure travel has been the most resilient with COVID-19 shutdowns occurring less, with spending recovered to 2019 levels even when adjusted for inflation. “Domestic business and international inbound travel remain further behind,” Barnes says. “In 2022, domestic business travel spending remained at just 74% of 2019 levels (inflation-adjusted). It’s critical that we spotlight both business travel and leisure travel’s impact on our national economy as we continue to look toward a full recovery.”

Business travel needs may differ from the leisure and group sectors, according to Geoff Freeman at U.S. Travel. CREDIT Adobe Stock

U.S. Travel is encouraging partners across the industry to observe National Travel and Tourism Week with messaging as well as events including rallies and workforce appreciation activities and has provided a toolkit with ideas, along with a promotional video. In 2022, U.S. Travel saw 203 million engagements on social media with 83-plus million people reached. With  participation from 7,000 members and travel organizations in all 50 states, Barnes says similar results are expected this year too.

“We expect to see thousands of organizations across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico come together to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week,” Barnes says. “Organizations activate across social media platforms, through rallies and parades, by engaging with elected officials to speak about the power of travel on the economy and our nation’s jobs, working with elected officials to sign proclamations and declare the week National Travel and Tourism Week.

“And of course, one of the most recognizable ways organizations and destinations participate is by lighting up famous landmarks, buildings, or attractions red—the color of NTTW—to illuminate travel’s bright future. We’ve seen everything from the Empire State Building to Niagara Falls to bridges across the country.”

Organizations like the San Diego Tourism Authority are providing their members with support materials to celebrate the week. Visit Sarasota County in Florida is holding a ticketed event on May 8 to commemorate National Travel and Tourism Week. In Michigan, statewide travel and tourism industry leaders will gather in the Jack Roth Stadium Club at University of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor for a National Travel and Tourism Week press conference on May 8, followed by locker room and football field tours.

“The travel industry fuels every industry—our industry’s success is the nation’s success,” Freeman says in a U.S. Travel press release. “This week is a prime opportunity to elevate the message that travel is essential to moving America’s economy forward.”