National Travel and Tourism Week: Then and Now

Published on: Sun, May 06, 2018

Travel is…

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

People have used similar terms to fill in that blank for a long time.

Perhaps you would fill in the blank with images like a beach. The lake. The mountains. Experiencing a new culture. Getting away from it all. A fancy drink adorned with a little umbrella. New and great cuisine. Visiting friends and family. Sleeping in. Reading a good book.

No doubt, every one of us has an original idea or image we would use to complete the sentence. Regardless of my dream versus yours, what we all can agree on is that travel is big business; it matters now, and it mattered then, too.

A family poses on a horse-drawn buggy in front of the Courthouse. Photo taken circa 1900. (Photo courtesy of the Denton County Office of History and Culture)

This is National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). A tradition first celebrated 35 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 the 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 Then and Now.” Across the nation, cities are using NTTW to look back at their moment of awakening, the dawning of tourism’s potential that first encouraged their community to dip its toe in and try the water.

And then they’re looking at now.

Where has tourism taken Denton? What assets among those collected in our quality of life basket would be missing without travel’s impact on our city?

The U.S. Travel Association and Travel Texas in the Office of the Governor online research sites date back to 2006 and track travel and tourism’s impact through year-end 2017. Here is a for instance: Travel and tourism is America’s seventh-largest employer supporting 15.6 million U.S. jobs and nearly 678,000 Texas jobs. Today in Denton, tourism supports 1,750 jobs compared to 1,100 jobs back in 2006, a 37% increase.

Here’s another one: Travel generates $2.4 trillion for the U.S. economy and $74.7 billion for the Texas economy. Even more astounding is the fact that travel generated $179 million for our economy here in Denton last year, a staggering figure up 44% in just 10 years, from $101 million in 2006.

Even casual observation clues citizens and visitors alike in to the fact that Denton’s travel and tourism industry is booming. In just the past 10 years, some big dreams have found purchase, rising and altering our physical and economic landscape. And because success breeds success, other projects that had sometimes seemed permanently going nowhere took off and fueled new projects in the process. Check out this list, one that is certainly incomplete but still a good snapshot for Denton then and now:

  • Rayzor Ranch is developing and building out on both sides of University Drive.
  • The 318-room Embassy Suites and 70,000-square-foot Denton Convention Center are a reality at Rayzor Ranch, more than doubling their first-year expected booking goals.
  • UNT and TWU are expanding campuses and facilities to accommodate growing student populations.
  • The Discover Denton Welcome Center opened on the square and sees some 6,000 visitors every month.
  • Local music and art are a focused commitment in development.
  • New restaurants and entertainment venues seek to identify with the Original Independent Denton brand.
  • Downtown Denton and the square have evolved into a legitimate entertainment district with Dentonesque dining, shopping and nightlife destinations.
  • Denton’s hotel room inventory more than doubled from 1,283 to 2,373.
  • Denton’s signature festivals add attractions, quality and attendance year-after-year.

Photo by Tammi Paul Photography

Because we spend our days immersed in Denton, we may miss the significance of so much happening in a short time. Everything evolving for the tourism industry is affecting our own quality of life as Dentonites. We are embedded in rich culture, surrounded by music and art, rub shoulders with creative geniuses at every turn, are offered perpetual opportunities for original, independent entertainment and festivals, and have no shortage of cool people, places and happenings with which to fill our lives.

On top of that, every household in Denton reaps the financial benefit. Last year, visitor spending in our city saved every Denton household $365 in taxes.

Nearly 500,000 people stayed in a Denton hotel while visiting Denton during 2017. This number is just the visitors in hotels and doesn’t include thousands more that are day-trippers.

While your own travel vision might be a mountain or a beach, it’s important for all of us to recognize that a lot of people out there choose to visit Denton and spend their discretionary dollars right here in our city with our local merchants. Travel is big business from the national level down to our individual households. Then and now…travel and tourism matters to Denton.