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Messages from the President

A Toast to Tourism - May

By: Anna Tanski, President/CEO | May 8, 2016

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “What’s it take, an act of Congress?” That’s exactly what it took to establish National Tourism Week back in 1983. Held in early May each year, this week is designated as a time for travel and tourism professionals across the nation to promote the contributions this industry has in each of our communities.

When measuring impact, it’s all about the numbers, and the U.S. Travel Association breaks down the $2.1 trillion generated by visitor spending in this manner: $2.6 billion a day, $108.1 million an hour, $1.8 million a minute, $30,033 per second. According to USTA’s research, each U.S. household would pay $1,192 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by travel and tourism.

Having just returned from Puerto Rico, who’s fragile economy is on the verge of bankruptcy, their reliance on tourism is evident. This beautiful country has lost a million people over the past 12 months, shrinking it’s population to 2.5 million. In Old San Juan, my husband and I were astounded by the number of shuttered businesses that had graced historic storefronts not that long ago.

Food and beverage taxes were astronomical, but lodging tax was exceptionally low, itemized in great detail including a $.01 and $.05 daily charge. Cruise ships are the feeder of San Juan’s tourism base, but across the island commercial ventures such as kayaking and zip lining were thriving according to the operators we talked with. On the southern coast, Ponce’s business district was bustling. The roadside bar overlooking a spectacular gorge in the mountains of the rainforest appeared insulated from any of the issues facing the surrounding communities. A cold local beer was served with a warm smile at a fraction of the big city prices, tax included.

Clearly, a small island can have distinctly different dynamics within an industry and the same holds true across our country. Tourism is working hard to fuel America’s economy. Duluth’s vibrant visitor industry plays a key role at the local, state and national level.

As National Tourism Week comes to a close, taking time to celebrate our city’s success is just as important as reflecting upon what Duluth would look like without our third largest industry. Treasures such as the Lakewalk and Rose Garden wouldn’t exist. Private development in hotels, restaurants and retail would cease.

Visit Duluth represents more than 400 businesses working together to keep tourism growing. Through partnership and collaboration we toast the continued success of the hospitality industry and it’s vital impact on our beautiful city.

Sean Flaherty (center) receiving Visit Duluth's Manley and Erwin Goldfine Volunteer of the Year Award from Anna Tanski, President/CEO (left) and Gerry Goldfarb, Board Chair (right)