It is a strange time to be writing about the importance of travel and tourism. We haven’t been seeing a whole lot of it these days since the spread of COVID-19 began, and neither has the rest of the world. At the same time, after two months of limited activity and staying home, we are seeing our community and many communities around the country begin to open back up. We look forward to telling our community’s stories again, even as we scramble for the resources to be able to do so.
Nationally, travel industry employment is down 51%, and these job losses account for 38 percent of total job losses through April, as reported by U.S. Travel. Clark County has certainly felt these losses, with many hotel, restaurant, brewery and attraction employees laid off or furloughed, and many businesses forced to shutter or adapt their business models in order to absorb the completely unforeseen hit to normal revenues. These business owners and employees are your neighbors and your friends, and from an economic perspective, their earnings and their spending support the larger economy.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 100 events have been canceled or postponed in Clark County. From concerts and festivals to conferences and meetings, these events would have accounted for hundreds of thousands of attendees bringing positive economic impact. There are also the events that we all look forward to throughout the year, and that contribute to the culture of the place we call home.
Visitors, and their dollars, have already had a visible impact on our community. From the majestic waterfront development opened in 2018, to the world-class casino and resort up north in Ridgefield, to the exploding food, beer and wine scene, visitors have played a part in helping each of these grow. They will continue to play an ever-important role in developing the things we want in our community without having to rely only on the local tax base and resources. As an agency, Visit Vancouver USA wants to bring visitors back as soon as it is safe to do so, and make sure that they continue to help grow the place that we all call home in beautiful and surprising ways.
Since 2009, we can see in the data how increasingly impactful visitors are to Clark County, with spending percentages going up each year since the 2008 economic recession. In the most recent data set by Tourism Economics, it showed visitors spent $554 million in 2019, drove $383.8 million in tax savings for the local economy and supported 4,723 jobs. We know in 2020, these numbers won’t look so hopeful, but they do demonstrate how tourism serves as a backbone for a thriving community like Vancouver USA.
Tourism was the bleeding edge of the recession, and it could be the industry that suffers for the longest. But its recovery will be essential to returning our prosperity to where it once was.
When it’s safe, you can help just by doing the things you might have done anyway: Invite your friends in from out of town for a wine tasting tour on the waterfront, go out and eat at a new restaurant (and bring your cousin from Seattle while you’re at it) and boost your summer wardrobe with pieces from a local retail shop. Share all the places, people and businesses that make you love your hometown on social media, with your friends and family, and with your networks, because one thing this slower pace of life has taught us is that there is a person, and a family, and a story, behind every struggling small business.
Your support will help sustain these places that you love for many years into the future. We can’t do it without you, and we are stronger together.
Michelle McKenzie is director of marketing & communications at Visit Vancouver USA. She can be reached at email@example.com.