I pass by a tourist site – the National Weather Museum and Science Center nearly every day. You probably pass a popular tourist site every day too. We may not even think of how it supports our community. But the Weather Museum and others in Norman like the Sam Noble Museum of Natural HistoryLegends Restaurant or Sooner Theatre are the backbone of this community. These places define Norman, provide our families with jobs and have given us—and thousands of annual visitors—a lifetime of memories.

Travel matters, and it improves Norman and Oklahoma in ways that have a wide-reaching impact on us Okies. Travel supports 100,000 direct jobs in Oklahoma, thousands more indirectly, and it also has an impact that we do not always see: travel can strengthen families, foster hometown pride, and build bridges that connect us with one another.

Travel Matters to America

At the national level, travel is critical to the U.S. economy and American jobs. As a leader in workforce development and career advancement–travel creates and supports 15.7 million jobs across the U.S.– making it the seventh-largest private sector employer. In 2018, traveler spending generated $171 billion in total tax revenue, including $78.6 billion in state and local revenue. That $78.6 billion can pay for a host of critical resources: it’s more than enough to pay all state and local police and firefighters, or the more than one million public high school teachers.

Travel is powerful for cities and states, and Oklahoma is no exception. $8.6 billion is spent in Oklahoma by visitors. That generates $627 million in state and local tax revenues.

Think back to your first job. I worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Maybe you worked at a local business or attraction that has been around a while. Maybe your kids work there now. For many–one third of Americans to be exact–travel is the front door to a promising career. Americans whose first job in travel have an average career salary of $81,900, and two in 5 of those whose first job was in travel are now earning more than $100,000.

Think about how travel matters to an International Pantry. (You have to come to Norman to shop there!): travel-dependent leisure and hospitality is the largest small business employer in the U.S.

Those are only a few reasons why it’s so important to keep welcoming visitors to your community—and why our industry is elevating the message of “Travel Matters” during National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) May 5-11. We encourage you to join us in observing NTTW this year, and celebrate all that travel does for Norman, Oklahoma, and for our country as a whole.

Here are a few ways to get involved:
• Go visit a local attraction or shop. Buy something and say thank you.
• Contact your member of Congress and tell them why travel is important to your community.
• Get social and engage with the #nttw19 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Share how travel matters in your community.

This year’s NTTW is more than just another campaign. It’s a movement that positions the travel industry as a primary driver in the U.S. economy, and as an important part of our daily lives in Norman, Oklahoma.