Opinion: Travel, tourism keep California out of the red

Travel is big business for California and leading the recovery post-recession. It is helping to jumpstart the economy and plays a vital role in our economic health.

How vital?

The industry provides billions in taxes and nearly a million jobs to the state. While the Golden State’s economy experienced a general downturn in 2010, tourism-related spending in California grew 7.4 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Last year, California tourism generated $95.1 billion in travel-related spending and $6.1 billion in direct state and local tax revenues. Travel in California means jobs – employing 873,000 people with earnings of $29.9 billion.

Simply put: travel matters.  It matters with job creation, productivity and regional economic expansion.

Though many of us may not see tourists in our neighborhoods day-to-day, it is this very revenue that helps pave our city’s streets, keep police and fire departments responding to our calls, and support children’s services.

Moreover, consider the impact thousands of leisure and business travelers create on hoteliers, restaurateurs, retailers, museums, clothing stores and countless other businesses.
Just looking at those significant numbers, it is clear the travel and tourism industry is helping to keep California out of the red.

California’s scenery, climate, people, cultural diversity, history, wildlife, landscape, highways and mystique are intrinsic qualities of the state and make it the number one travel destination in the United States. Even the royal newlyweds know it – they chose to come to California and visited Los Angeles during their first official overseas visit as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

People come to California because of what the state represents and to experience the California lifestyle. The California experience was the state’s top export in 2010, generating $17 billion in revenue. During this time period international tourism remarkably beat out the state’s aircraft, non-industrial diamonds, computer parts and voice/image and data equipment categories.

People from all over the world come to California to experience its wonders from the redwoods in northern California to the sunny beaches of the south.

Tourism is arguably California’s top commodity, every bit as valuable as our state’s agriculture products.  Californians value and protect its innovative industries such as software development, technology and biotech. It is time that travel and tourism is valued and acknowledged as the significant economic driver that it is. In a climate where many industries are being subsidized or floundering and laying off employees, the travel industry brings tourism dollars to our state’s economy with a minimal impact on the general fund.  

Tourism is resilient and weathers “down” economies better than most industries. It is a service-related industry which means work can only be done by employees and the work cannot be outsourced to other states or countries. In fact, tourism spending in the state has more of a direct impact on jobs than in most other industries.

Tourism is a vital part of our economic health. Let’s think about the value of travel in your everyday lives.  And, in the meantime, pack a suitcase and take a trip. Think of it as your personal contribution to economic recovery.

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