Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Letters to the Editor

October 3, 2013

Tourism creates jobs for Tazewell

— — As an indispensable engine for job creation, the travel industry can serve not only as an answer to our country’s increasingly complex economic challenges, but also as a gateway to opportunity for communities and individuals nationwide. Travel puts Tazewell County’s citizens back to work during tough times, offering jobs that provide valuable skills and opening doors to rewarding careers.

While travel often conjures images of vacation and leisure, the diverse industry is more than just fun. Travel has a much broader and more significant economic impact. Many realize tourism was again an important contributor to the local economy in 2012. Tourism revenue for Tazewell County reached $48,460,763, a 2 percent increase over 2011. Local tourism-supported jobs totaled 568 while local tourism-related taxes were $647,573. All data was received by the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) from USTA and is based on domestic visitor spending (travelers from within the United States) from per-person trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.

More than simply lodging or transit, travelers provide revenue for restaurants, parks, museums and other attractions while visiting destinations across Virginia, which supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state. From the airport worker to the hotel concierge to the local taxi driver, individuals in communities across the state reap the benefits of travel. 

As national unemployment rates have remained stagnant, travel has been adding jobs at a faster pace than the rest of the economy. Currently, there are only five other industries that employ more Americans than the travel industry. In particular, travel jobs help the unemployed Americans hit hardest by the recession — younger workers and those without higher education.

For many young workers, a travel job means a first foothold on the career ladder. Part-time students gravitate toward travel jobs because of the flexibility to pursue an education and training while gaining the benefit of on-the-job experience. One-third of the 5.6 million Americans who work part time to support themselves while they further their education work in the largest component of the travel industry — leisure and hospitality.

At a time when many Tazewell County’s citizens have seen their jobs shipped overseas, travel jobs provide an unwavering guarantee — they cannot be outsourced. Jobs tied to our iconic towns, beautiful scenery and historic landmarks will always stay in Tazewell County. A park ranger at Cavitt’s Creek Park can no more be outsourced than the park itself.

Simply put, increasing travel means creating employment opportunities for those in need.

Even as Wall Street and Washington, D.C. leaders begin to recognize travel’s ability to fuel American job growth, often times a question still persists — “Are travel jobs good jobs?”  The answer is an unqualified “yes!”

Travel jobs equip employees with a full range of important, transferable skills that prepare them to succeed in any profession. Research has shown that people who start in travel advanced in their career at a more successful rate in comparison to other industries. These employees ultimately earn higher salaries and grow into more developed job roles. In fact, two out of five workers who begin their career in travel go on to make more than $100,000 per year.

Travel jobs are the jobs of the future. They help to build our middle class and create a path toward a stable, prosperous life for employees and their families. According to recent studies, four million travel industry workers earn a middle class income or higher, which is 53 percent of the total travel workforce.

The travel industry is an essential contributor to a strong, upwardly mobile job market for Tazewell County. To ensure that all Virginians have the opportunities for success — whether it’s a foot in the door or advancing a career — we need to enact public policies that allow travel to thrive.

One of the keys to creating more local jobs is creating more local exports. In essence, Tazewell County is its own greatest export. For this reason, travel is the state’s number two service export. And that means jobs. By continuing to invest in travel promotion, we can attract more visitors and attain stronger economic growth and lower unemployment. The message is clear: travel is a win for Tazewell County’s economy. It is a win for Tazewell County jobs. And travel is a solution that, quite literally, works for Tazewell County.

Margie Douglass serves as director of tourism and economic development for Tazewell County.

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