If someone asked how travel enhances your life, you would likely recount the many incredible benefits you’ve personally experienced during vacation at some exotic locale. But what if I asked you to consider how travel affects your life as you go about your daily routine?
For many, the answer may be much less obvious. However, its significance is likely to be much greater than you’ve imagined.
Why this contemplation? Tuesday is Travel Rally Day, the national day of observance within National Tourism Week, established to generate awareness of the impact of tourism. You may be thinking, I get it — More tourists equals more money into our economy. The fundamental concept is not a revolutionary one.
But what if I told you that not only is that economic contribution $5 billion a year but that it also generates $836 million in federal, state and local taxes? Each visitor means $109 in tax revenue that locals don’t have to pay, saving the average household $890 in taxes annually. Property taxes would need to increase by about 20 percent to make up that difference.
Another less-known fact about the tourism industry is that it supports roughly 45,000 local jobs. From hotel managers and concierges to architects, accountants and groundskeepers, travel and tourism employ roughly 8 percent of Palm Beach County’s working population. That is more than the school district and county government combined. Every 100 visitors equals another job, so just 10,000 more visitors a year puts 100 residents to work.
As we celebrate the impact of tourism this week, we at the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) also commemorate our 30th anniversary. Our organization established the first destination marketing and sales effort with the core mission of increasing visitation to Palm Beach County and building awareness of the many extraordinary experiences it offers as a travel destination.
In our search for ways to acknowledge the accomplishments of the county’s tourism industry over the past three decades, we took a deep dive into our research archives and discovered our predecessors’ initial studies. This led to some interesting findings that, when put in perspective with today’s figures, reveal a story of progress and opportunity.
According to a CVB study conducted in 1988, visitor spending was $554 million, or $1.57 billion in 2013 dollars. The actual value today is $5 billion. In 1988, 1.13 million visitors came to Palm Beach County. Today, it’s more than 5 million. In 1988, tourist tax revenue was $6.24 million, or $12.28 million in 2013 dollars. The actual value today is $28.8 million.
This is particularly positive news considering what happened just a few years ago, when the “Great Recession” and the BP oil spill all converged on us as the “perfect storm,” wreaking havoc on the tourism industry. It was a scary time for us.
But our local industry was resilient. Since late 2009, we have made a virtually full recovery across the board in every performance category, including visitation, visitor spending, hotel occupancy and bed tax collections, nearly putting us back where we were, at all-time peaks for each indicator. Best of all, tourism jobs have led the way in the dramatic reduction in our county’s unemployment.
So, now that you’ve heard the case for tourism, I would like to pose the question once again: How has travel enhanced your life? Perhaps your answer will reflect not only your fond memories of trips to Tahiti, Paris, or New York City, but also the realization of the significant benefits you enjoy from living in one of the world’s most desirable travel destinations. Something to celebrate? We think so.
Editor’s note: Jorge Pesquera is president and CEO of the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau.