Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Examines Benefits of Tourism on the U.S. Economy

May 7, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held a hearing on “Vacation Nation: How Tourism Benefits our Economy.” While the U.S. economy continues to struggle with a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, the travel and tourism industry remains a relative bright spot. In 2012, the travel and tourism industry supported nearly eight million jobs in the United States and travel-related employment is among the top ten employing industries in 47 states. Today’s hearing examined tourism employment trends and ways to promote growth of this vital industry.

“The travel and tourism industry provides good, middle-class, domestic jobs that, almost by definition, cannot be outsourced,” stated Chairman Terry. “As someone who once worked in the service industry - both at an amusement park and in a restaurant - I can attest that the jobs created when restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks grow are good, honest, paying jobs that can help our young people get to work and perhaps open their eyes to a career with unlimited growth.”

Roger Dow, President and CEO for the U.S. Travel Association, offered a positive outlook for the U.S. travel economy. “The travel industry was not spared by the recession, but since 2010, we have helped lead the economic recovery by restoring 85 percent of the jobs lost during the downturn compared to just 69 percent of the rest of the economy,” said Dow. “Today, travel is our nation’s number one service export and is growing fast.”

Kathleen Matthews, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Communications and Public Affairs Officer for Marriott, explained the tangible economic benefits tourism brings to local communities. She stated, “Every time we open a hotel, the economic benefits are tremendous. A full-service hotel opening generates hundreds of initial construction jobs and sometimes upward of 1000 permanent positions. It will generate millions of dollars in annual tax revenues, and frequently becomes a focal point for community events, meetings and additional development.”

Will Seccombe, President and CEO of Visit Florida, described the importance of the tourism industry to his state. He explained, “Logging over 500 million vacation nights in the Sunshine State last year, Florida’s visitors spent $71.8 billion on hotels, attractions, restaurants, retail and recreation. To put that in perspective, there are more people visiting the Sunshine State each day – nearly 1.6 million – than live in 11 U.S. states and they spend nearly $196 million a day in Florida. This tourism spending generated $4.3 billion in sales tax in 2012, meaning more than 23% of all the state’s sales tax collections were paid by people who live outside Florida. We know that every 85 visitors to the state create or support one new Florida job. Today, the tourism industry provides employment for 1,053,000 Floridians, with the number of jobs supported by visitors having grown for 36 straight months.”

Sharon Zadra with the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority urged Congress to adopt policies to support the continued growth of the tourism industry, stating, “And though our largest industry continues to grow from a jobs standpoint, it’s of the utmost importance to this community that we continue to support it, and to help it keep growing. It is this growth in the tourism industry that will address the needs of not only our community, but the needs found in every community in this great nation.”

Members used the hashtag #tourism4jobs to communicate with constituents during the hearing.