This past week (May 2-8) we celebrated the 38th annual NTTW, 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.
Travel and tourism are such an important part of who we are as a community. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors flocked to our destination to experience Saratoga’s thriving arts and culture, exhilarating horse racing, and natural mineral springs.
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. in 2019. However, this vital revenue source stemming from business and leisure travelers was severely diminished amid 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. From a local perspective, New York State—normally a thriving center for tourism—was the third most severely impacted state in the country. Tourism spending dropped by 56%, and New York’s tourism industry workers were hit hard.
While the rapid pace of vaccinations has provided hope that a return to normal is on the horizon, a resurgence in travel demand is ramping up. Vacationing in our state not only helps the tourism industry, but it also puts money back into the pockets of our small businesses, artists, farmers, and communities. 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.
We look forward to restarting professional meetings and events, which is a crucial segment of our local economy, without which we cannot fully recover.
The road ahead is challenging, but the travel industry is resilient and has an incredible ability to bounce back from hard times. We recovered after 9/11, after the 2008 financial meltdown, and after health scares such as Zika, Ebola and SARS. This is the toughest challenge the U.S. travel industry has ever faced, but we know travel is one of the best-equipped industries to lead a revival.
Once the economy starts the process of recovery, then all of us in Saratoga can get back to doing what we do best more quickly—providing quality job opportunities for people of all backgrounds, reconnecting family and friends, and showing the world what makes Saratoga the best place to live, work and visit.
Tourism is a huge revenue generator for New York as well as Saratoga County, and Discover Saratoga will continue to advocate on behalf of the tourism industry as we begin to reopen safely.
By Darryl Leggieri, Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau