Southern Delaware Tourism
Last month we celebrated National Travel and Tourism week, and while we’ve talked a lot in this space about the many benefits tourism brings to Southern Delaware, our communities, and residents’ wallets, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the bigger picture too. Nationally, tourism provides trillions of dollars in economic output ($2.5 trillion in 2018) and millions of American jobs.
Each year, traveler spending in the U.S. significantly boosts local economies across the country while helping to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Communities large and small, both urban and rural, rely on travel for economic development, job creation, and tax revenues. Travel supports nearly 16 million American jobs – that’s one in 10 – and is the seventh largest employer in the private sector. Eighty-three percent of travel companies are considered small businesses. Travel drives small businesses across the country – as it does across Southern Delaware.
According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), without travel spending, the impact its absence would have on local economies and families would be devastating. Travel spending generated $176 billion in total tax revenue in 2017. Without this revenue, each U.S. household would pay $1,300 more in taxes every year (in Delaware, tax savings for each household thanks to tourism is nearing $1,500 annually).
Travel is also America’s second largest industry export. Every time an international visitor comes to the U.S. and stays in a hotel, rides a train, eats in a restaurant, or makes a purchase in a store, the U.S. is “exporting” these goods and services. The USTA says that in 2017, Americans abroad spent $174 billion while international travelers to the U.S. spent $251 billion – resulting in a travel trade surplus of $77 billion. This surplus helps to lower our overall trade deficit and without it the overall U.S. trade deficit would have ballooned 14 percent.
Recent research shows that the vast majority of Americans (88 percent) place traveling to new places at the top of their bucket lists, and that more than two thirds of American adults would rather spend money on experiences than on things. This is good news for federal, state, and local economies, for workers employed in tourism businesses, and for the businesses that employ them.
With travel and tourism playing such a vital role in both the U.S. economy and the economies of individual states, and with leisure travel being a very high priority for Americans, it seems like the support of local and regional tourism promotion – in order to capture that huge market and truly impressive return-on-investment – would be a no-brainer, and it really is. Like any product, travel destinations are brands that require investment to remain relevant, attractive, and competitive.
But in the recent past, some states have found out the hard way just how valuable tourism promotion is by withdrawing financial support for it. State and local economies in Florida, Colorado, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania are recent cautionary tales. In fact, a 2017 article in Huffington Post by Roger Dow of USTA reveals, “Travel revenue growth in Connecticut slowed to just half the pace it achieved during the deep recession years of 2009-2010 after the state eliminated its tourism office (Connecticut’s governor called the funding cuts “a gigantic mistake”). Pennsylvania, which also slashed its tourism budget recently, has so far lost $600 million in travel-generated state and local tax revenues.”
Time and again, destinations that have reduced their investment in travel promotion have seen significant drop offs in overall visitation and have missed out on potential short- and long-term economic benefits. With tourism second only to agriculture on the list of top economic drivers for the Sussex County and the fourth largest private employer in Delaware, that’s definitely worth understanding and remembering.