Come see why travel matters to area

Published 10:41 pm Saturday, May 9, 2009

National Tourism week begins Monday, and at 5:30 p.m., the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Council will celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week by co-hosting the Natchez Tourism Awards during the Chamber’s Business After Hours.

Travel and tourism play a key role in the Natchez area’s economy. Our community relies heavily on tourism dollars to generate tax revenue and create or maintain jobs.

Through this year’s event we hope to raise awareness and showcase why travel matters to Natchez and the important roles that tourism employees, attractions, local businesses and tourism organizations board members play.

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With business meetings and event travel facing a steep decline across America, nationwide events throughout National Travel and Tourism Week will emphasize the economic benefits travel and tourism brings to local workers and communities, and demonstrate the significance of travel.

This event is part of a larger effort led by the U.S. Travel Association with rallies slated in dozens of cities nationwide.

In Natchez the travel industry employs over 2,200 people and attributes to over $8 million in state and local taxes to the economy, according to 2008 reports from the Mississippi State Tax Commission and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Travel industry employees include everyone from hotel employees and restaurant workers to tour guides, tour bus and carriage drivers, to facility maintenance and management personnel who serve visitors to Natchez.

Travel and tourism are ranked high among America’s largest industries, with $740 billion in direct travel expenditures by domestic and international travelers. The industry also represents one of America’s largest employers with 7.7 million direct travel-generated jobs and $189 billion in travel-generated payroll.

However, according to U.S. Labor Department data, the U.S. Travel Association reported a loss of nearly 200,000 travel related jobs in 2008 and predicts a loss of an additional 247,000 travel-generated jobs in 2009.

Locally, tourism revenues provide funding for some of our most essential public services like education and law enforcement. Nationwide the travel industry is facing tough times, but it’s important for people to understand the key role travel can play in helping to solve our economic challenges on both the local and national level.

The Natchez Chamber and CVB invite and urge anyone involved in local tourism to attend the 2009 Tourism Awards ceremony on Monday at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

Connie Taunton is the director of tourism for the City of Natchez.