Travel’s History of Growing Jobs in Florida—And Across the Country

Visitors have long kept our area vibrant—and our nation’s economy strong

Economic Impact of Tourism Florida 2016
Economic impact of travel on Florida (2016)

Many politicians, both in and out of election cycles, tout their focus on creating and keeping good American jobs. A top performer in that category is an industry right under their noses: travel.

Most people are likely familiar with the frequently touted (and research-proven) positive effects of travel on our work performance, relationships and personal well-being. It’s travel’s economic power, though, that arguably deserves more attention—especially in Florida.

Travel is a top-10 employer in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Spending by travelers everywhere in the U.S., which currently totals over $1 trillion annually, supports 15.6 million American jobs. That’s one in nine Americans whose employment depends on a healthy travel industry.

This week, travel industry workers across the country are celebrating the 35th annual National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). This year’s theme, “Travel Then and Now,” highlights travel’s long history of supporting jobs, businesses and livelihoods everywhere in America and our industry’s enduring ethos of welcoming visitors from near and far—while emphasizing the need to craft smart, travel-friendly policies that keep jobs flourishing.

Policies that protect and promote travel—from improvements to our roads and airports, to safely keeping America’s doors open and welcoming to international visitors—are necessary for the health of our country. It’s our country’s top service export, generating $2.4 trillion in economic output each year.

One in nine Americans depend on a healthy travel industry for their employment—and it’s not just those directly working in the travel industry either. In 2017, travel generated $75.6 billion in state and local tax revenue, more than enough to pay all state and local police and fire fighters, or 1.25 million public school teachers (preschool and k—12) across the U.S.

Given these extraordinary returns, it’s important that our elected leaders seek avenues to support and expand travel to and within the U.S., and right here in Florida. Here’s how.

Modernizing our travel infrastructure, particularly our airports, is one critical step. Our country’s aviation system is one element of travel firmly stuck in the past—and not a single U.S. airport is ranked in the top 25 in the world. This is partly due to the financing structure that funds improvement projects at major airports, which has not been altered since 2000. Reliable funding for our nation’s airports could modernize our World War II-era air traffic control system, make much-needed safety updates, and add gate space—which would spur competition among airlines by allowing more carrier options, improving prices and service for customers.

Growing international visitation to the U.S. is also crucial to preserving the economic engine that is travel. Our country’s share of the competitive international travel market is shrinking, and has been since 2015. Even with the current strength of the stock market and low unemployment, the U.S. economy will suffer unless we turn this trend around. Just a 1.7 percent drop in America’s international travel market share has already cost the U.S. economy four million additional visitors, $32.2 billion in additional spending at American businesses and—most importantly—100,000 additional jobs that could have been created if we had simply maintained our 2015 market share level as global travel volume grew. As an industry focused on welcoming visitors from all walks of life, we are uniquely positioned to help the administration with this goal.

American business leaders across a variety of industries have taken notice of this trend, and continue to work with the administration through groups like the Visit U.S. Coalition,  which seek to emphasize that the U.S. can be the most secure and most welcoming country in the world for international visitors.

We are also in position to boost travel’s effect on our lives and the economy by encouraging the American workforce to use their earned time off to travel and see our great country. The U.S. is well on its way to becoming a “no vacation nation,” with a 20 percent decline in vacation days used since the year 2000. Many workers cite a lack of encouragement from employers and a work culture emphasizing productivity above balance. This lifestyle has consequences for our health, our families, our relationships and our work performance—and local employers can do their part to change this dynamic at work.

Travel makes a difference in our communities and lives every day—and has done so for years in Florida.