BY LEANN DILBECK –
The 31st Annual National Travel & Tourism Week, sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association, is May 3 through May 11 and all across the country, travel workers and associated agencies will be reinforcing the significance that the tourism industry has on both the national and local economies.
Locally, the Mena Advertising & Promotion Commission, the Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce and the Mena Depot Commission are partnering to increase awareness on the importance of the tourism industry. The three agencies will host a reception Monday, May 5 from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Mena Depot Center on Sherwood Avenue that is open to the public. Participants will also have the opportunity to register for a chance to win a one-night’s stay at the new Queen Wilhelmina Lodge when it re-opens in 2015, donated by Arkansas State Parks.
Their efforts will amplify the U.S. Travel Association’s multi-year campaign – known as Travel Effect – to prove the huge impact that travel and tourism has on our lives, businesses and local, state and national economies.
ARCO Chair Gar Eisele, who has been very out-spoken on the significance of the tourism industry said, “The numbers tell the story. Travel supports 14.9 million jobs across the nation. It is a $9.5 billion industry in Arkansas alone, of which $21 million is generated right here in Polk County.”
A&P Chair William Rainey is grateful to see the local partnership seeking to increase awareness, “Not only does the reception and the tourism week celebrate the benefits of travel in our community, but the monumental week also allows us to inform elected officials and local citizens about the industry’s true widespread effect in Polk County and across America.”
Numbers released from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for 2013 show over 83,000 visitors to Polk County, supporting $3.8 million in travel generated payroll. The Arkansas tourism industry experienced a year of growth in 2013, increasing 3.35%. Data collected at the state’s Welcome Centers reveal that a total of 835,320 tourists requested assistance from travel consultants during 2013 and the top reasons for travel were 1. Vacation (49.5%), 2. Passing Through (44.9%).
Paula Bailey, Executive Director for the Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce, added, “Travel employs a diverse workforce… from hotel to cabin rentals, to restaurants, attractions and retail workers… which all trickles over to other industries like construction, manufacturing and finance. The Travel Effect is felt nationwide with 14.9 million American jobs supported… good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced.”
In 2013, the average U.S. employee skipped 3.2 days of paid time off. According to a recent study, if workers used all of their available paid time off, the U.S. economy would gain $160 billion in additional annual business sales, which would support 1.2 million new jobs and generate $21 billion in new annual tax revenues. “It is now empirical, rather than just anecdotal, that travel is a key driver for improving individual health and strengthening our businesses and economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the umbrella organization representing the U.S. travel industry. “Travel holds a measurable benefit for our minds, bodies, relationships, businesses and economy. Travel should be celebrated every day.”