In 2018, our neighbors would have paid $419 more for government services if tourism did not exist.

At SoIN Tourism, this is one way we demonstrate that tourism is important to our local economy. It shows the additional amount of taxes that residents would need to pay to maintain government services if visitors didn’t spend money in the community and leave their taxes behind.

If tourism did not exist.

For years, we have used that phrase to help people think about the value of tourism by imagining life without it. Now we are living without it.

Visitors have disappeared because of stay-at-home orders and restrictions on businesses. They’re not in our hotels or at our attractions or restaurants. They aren’t at festivals because they’re canceled.

As people who live in this community, we are all inconvenienced. We can’t visit our favorite restaurant, and we likely know the owner and her employees who are suffering because of it. But did we realize the extent to which those neighbors also rely on visitors for their livelihood? In 2018, SoIN visitors spent $54 million on food and drink alone – helping keep those places afloat so we can enjoy them all year. Now, with only carry-out orders for locals, they are struggling.

Visitors support more than restaurant and hotel jobs. The money they leave behind puts people to work in industries you wouldn’t expect: retail, arts, administrative services, technology services, real estate, health services, finance, insurance, construction, etc. You or a family member or a neighbor may be working because of tourism and not even know it.

When we’re not worried about catching a virus, we like having visitors in our community. We’re rightfully proud of our southern Indiana home and love to show it off. We’re among the most hospitable people in the world and enthusiastically welcome others. We enjoy receiving visitors as much as being a visitor somewhere else.

Tourism is an important part of our healthy economy. It is good for our soul. Because of tourism, we connect with people from elsewhere in Indiana, the U.S. and from around the world.

May 3-9 is National Travel & Tourism Week. It’s an opportunity for everyone to honor the spirit of tourism – recognizing the industry’s strength, selflessness and resiliency. Although we can’t travel or meet right now, we remember the power of travel. The freedom to travel was defiantly celebrated after 9/11. Tourism suffered in the last recession and led the recovery out of those difficult times.

Today, restaurants are helping feed those out of work, and hotels are housing health care workers and the homeless. Museums provide online lessons to homebound students. The industry that provides life’s best memories also takes care of us when things go bad.

Tourism is an important part of who we are as a country, and we yearn to travel again with our families, friends, and colleagues.

What if tourism did not exist? We know what that looks like now. Are we willing to support its resurgence?

  • Donate to funds that support tourism and hospitality workers
  • Thank front line hotel, restaurant, attraction and transportation employees rather than dismissing the value of their jobs.
  • Patronize small business owners who work every day to provide great experiences and put people in our communities to work
  • Support community leaders’ investments in quality of “place” initiatives – because a great place to live is also a great place to visit.

These are some of the things we can do now. Your livelihood and your quality of life will be better because of it.

Jim Epperson is Executive Director of SoIN Tourism, the destination marketing organization for Clark & Floyd Counties in Indiana.

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