Travel is…

Fun. Making memories. Educational. Adventurous. Relaxing. Enlightening. Refreshing.

Perhaps you would fill in the blank with images like a beach. A lake. Mountains. A new culture. A fancy drink adorned with a little umbrella. Beautiful cuisine. Friends and family. Feet propped up and a good book in your lap.

No doubt, every one of us has an original idea or image we would use to complete this sentence. An ending we all can agree on, or certainly will by this column’s conclusion, is that travel is…essential.

This is National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). A tradition first celebrated 32 years ago after Congress passed a joint resolution in 1983, the first full week of May is set apart from the rest of the year to recognize travel’s importance to American economy and quality of life. Cities across the nation identify, design and participate in activities to champion the power of travel.

This year’s NTTW theme is “Travel is…” City to city across the nation, we are filling in the blank as it is relevant to our unique destination. So why is travel essential to Texas? To Denton?

Let’s begin at the national level. The U.S. Travel Association states that travel and tourism is one of America’s largest industries:

  • Travel generates $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy.
  • Direct travel spending in the U.S. totaled $927.9 billion by domestic and international travelers in 2014 at a rate of $2.5 billion a day, $105.8 million an hour, $1.8 million a minute and $29,398 a second.
  • One in every nine American jobs depends on travel, more than 15 million jobs total.
  • Travel and tourism is America’s largest services export industry generating $220.6 billion in 2014 travel exports.
  • Each U.S. household would pay $1,147 MORE IN TAXES without the tax revenue generated by the travel industry.

“Travel is essential to Texas” is our state’s theme, because it is big business. Preliminary estimates from the Office of the Governor Tourism Division show that direct travel spending in Texas was $70.5 billion in 2014, an increase of 4.5 percent over 2013 and the fifth consecutive year of growth. Travel spending in Texas last year directly supported 630,000 jobs and indirectly fueled 474,000 more jobs across many industry sectors including leisure and hospitality, transportation, retail trade, services, finance, real estate, construction, insurance and others.

Now, what does travel really mean right here at home? Think back to last October. Remember Denton’s big win when Texas Highways magazine readers voted our city as the best Texas destination second only to San Antonio? Top brass from the Texas Department of Transportation Tourism Division (TXDOT) made the formal announcement at a City Council meeting and cited that the Texas Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism division estimated travel spending in the City of Denton to be $176 million in 2013, accounting for $3.9 million in local Denton taxes and some 1,590 jobs in our city. Significant. Huge!

What happens when we drill all the way down to you and me? What does travel mean to YOU? It means you are $334.35 this year ahead of where you would be without travel’s impact on Denton.

This is savings you would otherwise contribute to maintaining our original, independent quality of life in Denton. Travel allows visitors to pick up part of the tab.

Travel matters to Denton! It is essential and cause for celebration!

Our team is celebrating NTTW at TXDOT’s Texas Travel Information Center (TIC) in Gainesville this Friday. It just so happens that Friday is also day one of TWU’s graduation and Mothers’ Day weekend. Hundreds of travelers will stop at the TIC throughout the day, and we’ll be there with Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and talking “Dentoning.” Our strategy is to showcase Denton’s originality by dishing out uniquely Denton tastes and sounds for the crowds.

Beyond travelers already on the road, we are also dedicating this week to messaging the masses. And you can help. Social and online forums are buzzing as America’s communities show off their attributes, the stuff people come to see. I am inviting you to help us make Denton’s presence big. If you were showing someone around town, what are the “can’t miss” spots you would show them?   Then pick your favorite forums and begin your post with “In Denton, Texas travel is…” Then post a picture of your favorite Denton place on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with #lifesbetter and #nttw2015 and #dentoning.

Travel is…awesome, especially in Denton when company is coming.