It is National Travel and Tourism Week — a time when we celebrate the impact our industry has on our community, the Commonwealth and the nation.
Travel and tourism easily is one of Americaís largest industries. In 2011 alone, it contributed $1.9 trillion to the U.S. economy; supported 14.4 million American jobs; and delivered $124 billion in tax revenues. In fact, its contribution to the tax base, each household would have been taxed an additional $1,000 to maintain the same level of services. Thatís something every voter — and politician — likes to hear in an election year!
Travelís impact is significant and growing. It can drive our nationís economic recovery and resurgence as a great nation by creating and supporting jobs. The travel industry contributes substantially to those businesses that depend on tourism, across the country and right here in our community.
Consider the impact leisure and business travelers create on Fairfax Countyís hotels, restaurants, retailers, museums and countless other businesses. Visitors from around the world travel to Fairfax County — directly supporting almost 30,000 local jobs with earnings of more than $571 million. Last year alone, tourism spending in the county generated an additional $158.2 million in state and local taxes.
Given this level of economic importance, travel needs to be easy and accessible. Although the transportation improvements in our area might be an inconvenience now, the widening of Interstate 495 for better traffic flow, increased development along the Route 1 corridor and Metroís extension through Tysons Corner out toward Dulles International Airport will open the county up to greater opportunities and easier access — for residents and visitors.
On a national front, it is critical our airports continue to maintain the highest degree of security for all travelers, but it also is vital to ensure all visitors experience the friendliest of welcomes. Fairfax County hosts travelers from across the nation and around the globe each year. These visitors spend, on average, more than $2.4 billion in our area. Great effort is under way to ensure a more effective and efficient visa processing system in key markets that are vital to the growth of this industry, notably China and Brazil.
The U.S. Travel Association is working diligently with our elected officials on reducing air travel inconvenience at security checkpoints, and creating a smarter visa policy to allow one of our strongest economic industries help America get back on track. If successful, these initiatives not only will be significant on a national scale, but will make a huge impact right here in our back yard.
So this week, as we celebrate our colleagues and neighbors who are a vital part of this industry, I urge all of us to use National Travel and Tourism Week as an occasion to encourage our local leaders and elected officials to ensure the travel and tourism industry continues to thrive.
Letís unite to Vote Travel, because with a vote for travel, everyone wins.
Barry Biggar is President & CEO of Visit Fairfax [www.fxva.com].