National Travel & Tourism Week (NTTW) is coming the week of May 2-8. With the theme “The Power of Travel,” the 38th annual celebration of the U.S. travel industry’s contributions is an opportunity to remind visitors and residents of the incredible value the travel industry holds not just for our local economy and workforce, but to our community’s identity and culture—and to remind policymakers of travel’s ability to help power recovery efforts.
Travel and tourism is such an important part of who we are as a community. One need only consider how visitors to Lane County delight in visits to performances at area performing arts venues, to Oregon football and basketball games or to a community gatherings like the Oregon Country Fair or Oregon Truffle Festival.
Before the pandemic, 2019 direct visitor spending in Lane County totaled more than $783 million and supported over 11,000 jobs. Nationally, travel generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the U.S. As a traded-sector industry, the hospitality industry brings hundreds of millions of dollars into our local economy from outside the region, the state and the country. These dollars support a wide variety of jobs, from entry level to managerial, and wages for these positions begin above minimum wage while providing opportunities to advance within our local businesses.
However, this sector of our economy and culture was severely diminished by the pandemic.
In 2020, the entire U.S. travel industry lost half a trillion dollars in travel-related spending—10 times the economic impact of 9/11. Nationally, total travel-supported jobs accounted for a staggering 65% of all U.S. jobs lost amid the pandemic. In Oregon, total travel spending fell from over $12 billion to under $6 billion and, in Lane County, 5,000 of our friends and neighbors who were working in area food service and drinking establishments were still not back to work at the end of 2020.
With such large losses, it is clear that a broader economic recovery hinges on a recovery within the travel industry.
While the rapid pace of vaccinations has provided hope that a return to normal is on the horizon, a resurgence in travel demand is not inevitable. Thanks to the aggressive work by Congress, and specifically Senator's Wyden and Merkley and Congressman DeFazio, the travel economy is receiving a boost through actions such as funding of the restaurant revitalization program through the American Rescue Plan. With the right measures in place, we can get people moving again in a safe and healthy way, restore our workforce and help power a broader economic recovery.
As Lane County hospitality businesses take advantage of the federal resources for the summer ahead, something is missing – employees.
Lane County restaurants are closing or reducing hours, not due to a lack of customers, but due to a lack of staffing. Area hotels are blocking rooms from being sold to customers because they lack the staffing needed to clean these rooms for incoming guests.
Our hospitality businesses offer good jobs, with rising wages, that provide opportunities for youth and other job seekers to gain valuable job skills and explore careers in a worldwide industry. To connect area residents to these jobs, Travel Lane County is working with local workforce partners to host a hospitality industry hiring fair and has developed a website page that provides listings for area businesses that are looking for employees – www.EugeneCascadesCoast.org/tourism-jobs/
Area hospitality businesses have worked hard to survive this past year and, while lawmakers are acting to jumpstart recovery efforts and get Americans moving, recovery can only happen if our restaurants, lodging establishments and attractions have adequate staffing to meet the coming demand. Quality job opportunities are waiting and, once filled will allow us to reconnect with family and friends, and show the world what makes Lane County, Oregon and the U.S. the best place to visit.