Making Travel an Election-Year Issue

U.S. Travel Association hopes travel and tourism will be front and center this election season By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West

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As I write this, New Hampshire is holding the first presidential primary. One can only hope that the reasonable citizens of New Hampshire will somehow send a message to politicians that maybe it’s time to move past the name-calling, bullying, grandstanding and pandering we’ve seen so far. But I’m bracing myself for nine more months of the circus we call national elections.

One bright spot has been the initiative by the U.S. Travel Association to make sure that candidates don’t overlook the travel industry. In the past — even as recently as the terrorist attacks in Paris — travel has been the victim of politicians looking to forego sound economic policy in favor of a quick bump in poll numbers, whether it’s through fear mongering or by attempting to look tough on “foreigners.”

This year, U.S. Travel has taken to the campaign trail with the message that travel is a strong driver for the economy. Economists at the organization have even used the primary campaign in New Hampshire to make their point. According to its estimates, every campaign-related visitor spends approximately $350 per day on transportation, hotel rooms, meals, rental cars and more. Also, for the past five presidential cycles, average hotel occupancy in New Hampshire was estimated at 78,400 room-nights higher for the year preceding the primary compared to other years. Applying the state’s average room rate, that’s an extra $8.9 million in politics-related hotel revenue. Furthermore, according to the organization, every $80,700 in visitor spending in New Hampshire creates one job.

In other words, every 33 reporters coming to the state to cover the primaries for seven days means one more job.

To make sure this economic message is reinforced, U.S. Travel will continue its campaign in South Carolina on hotel key cards. The organization will also buy ads in Cleveland and Philadelphia for the Republican and Democratic party conventions and in Las Vegas for the Oct. 19 presidential debate.

So as tiresome and aggravating as this election season will undoubtedly feel in the next few months, at least we can be hopeful that the travel industry will not suffer in the rush to get the next sound bite.