Get in the spirit for Travel Week, May 3-9
Next week is National Travel Week, when Abilene joins the rest of the nation to educate everyone about the value of the industry. This year’s theme, “The Spirit of Travel,” encourages people to dream and plan for the day they can hit the open road.
Here’s a great thing about Abilene’s travel and tourism industry: It’s an activity that supports other businesses and non-profits. When professional associations, civic groups, athletic teams, or leisure tourists visit Abilene, their spending supports hotels, guest houses, restaurants, gas stations and shopping, along with museums, the zoo, party venues and cultural events. We’re all in this together.
The Office of the Governor, Economic Development, Travel & Tourism, reports that visitors brought $506 million in direct spending to businesses in the Abilene metropolitan area during 2019. Those dollars generated more than $45 million in tax receipts for state, county, and city governments. The report shows that travelers supported more than 4,100 jobs in 2019, providing $115 million in salaries and revenue to workers and proprietors. Visitors are important to sustain a vibrant economy.
The industry, of course, has taken a huge financial hit recently, and Abilene businesses and venues are feeling the pain. Attractions and venues have closed their doors to guests and canceled events that bring revenue to support their operations. More than 84 meetings and events have canceled for this year, representing a $7.7 million (and counting) loss to Abilene’s economy.
We are working to support these stakeholders. Our team is reaching out to hotels, event planners and other partners. We are using communication tools to encourage everyone to support restaurants and order takeout. We’re helping planners reschedule meetings and events. We’re monitoring the health of our travel ecosystem, which had been blooming with exciting new infrastructure for group travelers and fun hangouts for leisure travelers.
We are prepared to hit the ground running when the right day arrives. Tourists like to visit Texas, and Texans like to travel. The forecast has bright spots: Industry professionals say future visitors are using this time at home to plan excursions, looking for getaways in the upcoming six months.
Younger leisure travelers will tiptoe out first, before group and sports business return to town. People will set out on road trips to soothe their souls and expand their horizons. Abilene will be in a great position to invite those travelers to town, and the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) is prepared to capitalize on the opportunity.
We’re sweeping off the porch and preparing to roll out the welcome mat. We’re creating new, compelling content to appeal to drive markets, people who want to get out and stretch their legs, spend time with grandchildren, dine out with old friends, pay respects to extended family. We are adapting advertising creative and positioning digital campaigns to launch when the market is ready.
Join this effort. Grow your expertise in all things Abilene. Take advantage of the virtual opportunities to engage with the organizations that enrich our lives. Worldwide data demonstrates people are staying connected a myriad of ways, and our local attractions have risen to the challenge. Your family can enjoy live music, book readings, exhibit talks, history lessons, cooking demonstrations and even athletic training.
Here’s another opportunity: The ACVB will offer an abbreviated, live Zoom version of its popular Abilene Champions Hospitality Training May 14. It’s free. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. The class builds skills for service industry employees and includes helpful knowledge about this community. When you get back to work or invite friends, family, and clients to town, you’ll have the knowledge of a tour guide.
Dig out your pocketbook and support Abilene’s many cultural and heritage venues. We need them to thrive. Buy a Round Up Pass to use later. Start a regular donation to the Abilene HeArts for the Arts or contribute to the Community Foundation of Abilene’s Support Abilene COVID-19 Relief Fund. Next week’s Abilene Gives online event is another opportunity to support favorite venues; just look for their social media campaigns on May 5 and show your love for this community.
We look forward to the day Abilene will invite guests back to town. It’s the spirit of the people that makes this frontier flourish. Lend your muscle and join us to keep #AbileneStrong.