We’re really proud of our work promoting tourism. Not just because it’s fun and creative work for us, although it certainly is. We’re also proud of the great economic impact that tourism has on a community. In Virginia in 2008, travelers spent over $19 billion on dining, shopping, lodging, transportation, recreation and other travel-related expenditures. That means they kicked in over $2.5 billion in state and local tax revenue. But the statistic that stands out in my mind – and the one I want to focus on today – is that tourism is responsible for 210,000 jobs in the Commonwealth of Virginia alone.*
An occasional criticism of tourism as a job creation engine is that the jobs are largely low wage positions. It drives me crazy to hear that tired old argument. First of all, it’s important to tell the whole story. Sure, some of the jobs created include housekeeping, bellhops, cab drivers, waitstaff, and others, but also keep in mind that hotels, resorts, museums, restaurants, etc. employ highly talented and well-paid management teams, IT personnel, marketing gurus, executive chefs and many more professionals. Second, so what if some jobs are entry-level. What really bothers me about the whole low wage complaint is how easily these jobs are dismissed as menial. Those jobs have worth and dignity and are filled by people who need employment and want to work. They may be filled by young people just getting started in the working world. They may the second job of many men or women working hard to build a better life. Jobs of all shapes and sizes matter to our economy. The travel and tourism industry deserves a lot more credit for the ones it supports.
*Source: Virginia Tourism Corporation