The classic summer family vacation evokes a sense of nostalgia for Americans across the country. As peak travel season approaches, millions are planning their trips to tourist hotspots to create memories with friends and family.
While most people view summer vacation as a much-needed break from the stress of the 40+ hour work week, it’s important to remember this season is an economic driver that benefits countless cities in America. Last year, American and international travelers spent $761 billion in direct spending in the U.S. and generated over $100 billion in tax revenue. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 2.9 percent of the U.S. GDP and 1 in 10 U.S. jobs are attributed to the travel and tourism industry.
According to AAA, 100 million Americans are planning to take a family vacation this year with 68 percent of those individuals planning to travel during the summer months. This Memorial Day weekend, which is always one of the busiest travel weekends in summer, about 43 million Americans are projected to take a vacation for the holiday. This is a 3.6 percent increase from last year. Travel and Leisure recently found that Charleston, Austin, and Myrtle Beach are trending as the top searched destinations for Memorial Day weekend. Businesses in those cities and other destination locations will be happy to see an uptick in sales with the predicted influx in travel.
Additionally, the slight decrease in gas prices from last year will make the millions of Americans who plan to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend happy. In the past week we’ve seen a major decrease in the demand for gas, the lowest since May 2015, that reduced the national average of unleaded regular gasoline by 2 cents. While the price at the pump is expected to bounce back as summer begins, the national average is still predicted to be lower than last year.
If gas prices remain low, we can expect even more Americans, specifically 33%, to pack up their cars and go on a second road trip. According to the Travel Channel, Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, the Florida Keys’ overseas highway, and the scenic trip through the Black Hills of South Dakota ranks among the most popular places to road trip in the United States.
Even though more Americans are traveling domestically this year, we can’t forget about an integral part of the U.S. tourism industry: international travelers. An estimated 80 million international travelers, half from overseas, visited the U.S. last year. Foreign visitors tend to spend longer periods of time vacationing in the U.S. by staying an average of 18 nights and spending over $4,000 during their stay.
Given the high number of foreign travelers to the United States, it’s important these tourists are aware of the countless great places to visit in our country. While Americans may be aware of the charming city of Charleston, South Carolina and road trips through the breathtaking Black Hills of South Dakota, foreign tourists would be unlikely to know about all of the extraordinary, smaller U.S. cities to visit.
That’s why public-private partnerships, such as organizations like Brand USA, and not just the federal government, are a great example of how the private sector can promote cities, tourist attractions, and our great national parks that visitors from Europe or Asia might not know about otherwise. Brand USA’s mission is to champion our country as a premier vacation destination and draw international visitors to the United States to help boost our nation’s economy.
Public-private partnerships are proof the private sector is instrumental in contributing billions into our economy and lowering the trade deficit – not just organizations solely funded by the taxpayer.
Most importantly, organizations like Brand USA, don’t cost the American taxpayer any money. The organization receives its funding from the fee international travelers pay via the Visa Waiver Program, and then those funds are matched by the private sector.
It’s clear that an increase in American and international travel greatly impacts our economy. As more people travel this summer season, it’s key to think about the countless businesses that will prosper and how important it is to foster the tourism industry.