Let’s celebrate! This week is National Travel and Tourism Week! Travel and Tourism is one of the largest sectors in the U.S. economy, supporting over 5 million jobs, roughly 4% of all the jobs in the U.S. Now, this might not seem like a remarkable number, but it employs the same number of people as the entire construction sector and it’s a heck of a lot more fun!
With its jet skis and all-you-can-eat seafood buffets, this sector contributes as much to the nation’s gross domestic product as the shipment of cargo by all modes of transportation. In addition, 3% of the value of all the goods and services produced in the U.S. is derived from the Travel and Tourism sector. Again– not an overwhelming percentage since the U.S. economic pie is cut into so many small slices, but in absolute terms that comes to almost $400 billion. That’s a lot of seafood platters!
Two million (40%) of those jobs are directly tied to the resources of the oceans and Great Lakes. These tourism and recreation activities are concentrated right along the water’s edge and rarely extend further inland than the shore adjacent zip codes areas (Tourism and Recreation is a subset of the Travel and Tourism sector as defined by the Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW) data). The resources of the oceans and Great Lakes directly support $40 billion of wages and $89 billion of gross domestic product in tourism and recreation.
This sector, while fun, is complex. It is made up of a lot of industries that range from multinational corporations (hotel and restaurant chains) to mom and pop B&Bs, tour guides, and even surf instructors. Although hotels and restaurants dominate the sector, it is in the other relatively small industries that the fun stuff happens. You don’t go on vacation to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants (unless you’re in witness protection). You go on vacation for fishing, boating, surfing, and napping on the beach, etc. In the U.S. ocean and Great Lakes economy, these industries account for only 7% of the Tourism and Recreation GDP, but they are the soul (and economic backbone) of the sector.
The tourism industry as a whole relies heavily on healthy coastal and ocean resources as well as the aesthetic quality of the environment. This is not true for other activities like banking and shipping. A cargo vessel doesn’t mind sailing in dirty water, but a kayaker–no way! People don’t pay to walk on dirty beaches or swim in water that might make them sick. On the other hand, some tourism activities can have adverse effects on the environment. For instance, snorkelers can damage the fragile ecosystems of coral reefs.
Healthy and sustainable coastal ecosystems provide significant economic benefits to local communities, and the nation. This interrelationship between tourism and the environment is one of the things that make the industry interesting as well as fun.
So join us in celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week. Take a vacation and think about all the economic benefits you’re providing to the economy!