Travel & Tourism Can Help Drive America’s Economic Rebound
The travel and tourism industry is such an important part of who Salina, Kansas is as a community. The attributes that make Salina the wonderful place it is to live, are exactly the reasons that choose this place as a destination. Whether they come to take part in a meeting or convention, as a family for a sports tournament, to attend a production at Salina Community Theatre or a concert at the Stiefel Theatre, for a weekend at the Smoky Hill River Festival or KKOA Leadsled Spectacular Car Show, or have included us as a stopping point on a longer trip, visitors have long been an integral part of the Salina economy. Hotel stays are obvious, but the broader impact includes our restaurants, the attractions mentioned and others, retail stores, fuel vendors, and airlines.
Due to the pandemic, in 2020 the entire U.S. travel industry lost half a trillion dollars in travel-related spending—10 times the economic impact of 9/11. Nationally, total travel-supported jobs accounted for a staggering 65% of all U.S. jobs lost amid the pandemic. In Salina, we saw hotels that dropped to single digit occupancy, reduce staffing to a very bare minimum, close off sections of rooms and in some cases, close entirely for a while. All while adding tremendous sanitation and mitigation efforts. Restaurants switched to delivery, curbside, and outdoor service. Entertainment venues had to adapt, but in many cases were shuttered.
A broader economic recovery hinges on a recovery within the travel industry. Vaccinations are providing hope that a return to normal is on the horizon, though a resurgence in travel demand is not inevitable, and certainly won’t be immediate. The travel industry’s recovery is expected to take as long as three to five years, and as things do begin to bounce back, everyone is faced with the challenge of finding people to staff back up.
The road ahead is challenging, but the travel industry is resilient and has an incredible ability to bounce back from difficult times. We recovered after 9/11, after the 2008 financial meltdown, after other health scares. This is the toughest challenge the U.S. travel industry has ever faced, but we know travel is one of the best-equipped industries to lead a revival.
As recovery efforts continue, and we get Americans moving again, then all of us in Salina, Kansas can get back to doing what we do best - providing quality job opportunities, reconnecting family and friends, providing warm hospitality, and showing the world what makes the U.S., the State of Kansas and Salina among the best places to visit!