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Celebrating the Power of Tourism

Megan Schlosser Filak Senior Marketing Communications Specialist

National Travel and Tourism Week is our moment, as destination marketers, to celebrate the extraordinary impact of tourism both in our local communities and nationwide. While many associate the travel and tourism industry with the fun of new adventures, exploring exciting places, unwinding on the beach, or sampling culinary delights, its effects run much deeper. Underneath the surface-level pleasures, tourism acts as an economic powerhouse — fueling our communities with essential tax dollars, supporting families, empowering small businesses to flourish, and broadening our worldviews. 

building communities

According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2023 alone, tourism created $89 billion in state and local tax revenue. That tax revenue supports libraries, maintains roads, funds development projects, and revitalizes community parks, like in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains where local parks were among 37 community projects to receive funding from tourism tax dollars. While in Pinellas County, Florida a recent record high month in tourism tax collections, added to the accruing reserve, could allow the county to start moving forward on costly projects such as beach renourishment efforts and a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in downtown St. Petersburg.

The Ripple Effect of Tourism 

While tourism supports communities as a whole through taxes, it also directly affects the people and businesses within the communities. As travelers visit attractions, they also stay in hotels, dine in restaurants, visit stores, and fill up their cars at the gas station — each stop adding to the local economy. One prime example of this is seen across the communities surrounding Yellowstone National Park. The National Park Service reports that tourism added $600 million to those local economies. 

Each of those places a traveler stops relies on the local workforce to provide hospitality and essential services. In turn, travel supported 15 million American workers last year, according to the U.S. Travel Association. On a localized level the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism reports that tourism supports 1-in-16 jobs in the state. Across the country, in Nevada, 27% of the state’s workforce is supported by tourism. While the number of jobs tied to the travel and tourism industry is significant, the impact extends far beyond the jobs themselves. As Virginia Valentine, Nevada Resort Association president and CEO said in the Las Vegas Sun, “They’re [the workers] going to go back to their neighborhoods, and they’re going to be engaging in retail activity locally, and restaurants and their own entertainment. So, I think it ripples through the economy because you have such a powerful economic generator in the tourism industry.”

A World Without Tourism

Not only does travel unite people as it bolsters the exchange of cultures and experiences, it has a vital role in powering our nation’s economy and the communities where we live. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent health precautions, lockdowns, and travel restrictions, gave us a harsh glimpse into a world without tourism. A staggering 5.6 million travel and tourism jobs were lost in 2020. Our industry accounted for approximately 65% of all U.S. jobs lost that year according to research from the U.S. Travel Association and Oxford Economics. The sudden sharp decline in tourism created a domino effect that hit the heart of communities as families dependent on the industry struggled to make ends meet, local restaurants shut their doors, shops closed, while hotels and attractions reduced their staff.


Fortunately, in the few years since the pandemic halted tourism, the industry has made significant progress toward recovery, with many destinations, such as Dallas, Texas, expecting 2024 visitor numbers to now surpass pre-pandemic levels. But our work is far from over. As destination marketers, our mission extends beyond promoting the scenic views and unique experiences destinations offer. We are also stewards of a community’s economic and social vitality. Our efforts in marketing not only boost visitor numbers but also have a cascading impact on local employment, cultural preservation, and infrastructure development. While we take pride in the work we do, we must also actively communicate the far-reaching benefits of tourism. Our communities depend on it.

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