This is National Travel & Tourism Week in the United States. Many places are marking the occasion by pointing out to the general public the economic impact that travel has made in their community. Indeed that impact is staggering, to the tune of $758 billion in direct spending leading to $118 billion in federal, state and local taxes collected.
To celebrate this special week, I want to recognize the unsung heroes of the travel and tourism industry. The people who work in various service roles, who interact with travelers all day long and have a gift for making others feel special.
• Like the waitress who calls you “sugar” and reminds you how great it is to travel in the south.
• Like the front desk clerk at the hotel who greets you with a smile, and when you ask “where’s a good place to have dinner?” actually engages you in conversation to find out your preferences and then gives a thoughtful recommendation and even shows you on a map how to get to the restaurant. It would have been much easier to say, "our own hotel restaurant is open until 10:00."
• Like the volunteer staff at Visitor Information Centers across the country who are proud of their cities and towns and can answer any off-the-wall question about dining, lodging, sightseeing, getting around, what not to miss and, perhaps more importantly, what to avoid.
• Like the ski resort valet who greets you with a high-five and informs everyone in the vicinity that there is a VIP among us just because he noticed you were wearing a Virginia Tech hat. (This one really happened to me.)
According to the U.S. Travel Association, 14 million American jobs are supported by travel expenditures. Some of those are highly-paid, white collar positions, while others are like the unsung heroes I mention – service jobs. ALL of the jobs are important. You may not spend more than a few minutes at a time with these front line tourism workers, but their attitude and professionalism can either ruin your day or make it better.