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Take a break and spur the economy

POSTED January 20, 2012 7:26 p.m.

I love vacations. Unfortunately, my desire to travel the world far exceeds my financial means and time availability to do so. Don’t get me wrong I still travel, just on a smaller scale and not as often as I’d like. When I finally do get away, I feel guilty about the money I spend and my absence from work.

Thankfully, the Obama Administration is giving me a guilt-free reason to travel. President Obama announced on Thursday that he is calling for a national strategy to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination, as part of an effort to spur job creation. The U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment, according to the administration, representing 2.7 percent of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010.

Specifically, Obama is courting the travel dollars of the emerging middle classes in China, Brazil and India — which is projected to grow by 135 percent, 274 percent and 50 percent, respectively, by 2016 when compared to 2010. Nationals from these three countries contributed approximately $15 billion dollars and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010, according to the U.S. Dept. of Interior.  In addition, Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than $6,000 and $5,000 respectively each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce.

To streamline getting these tourists — and their money — into the country the Department of State has made tremendous progress in processing non-immigrant visas from these key markets, allowing them to issue more than 7.5 million visas in the last fiscal year, a 17 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. In the 2011 fiscal year, consular officers adjudicated more than a million visa applications in China and more than 800,000 in Brazil, representing 34 percent growth in China and 42 percent growth in Brazil.

While the White House is looking at drawing in more international visitors, I will use any excuse to book a trip — and I’m pretty sure my travel dollars will keep hotel bellhops employed just as well as those Brazilian reals or Chinese yuans.

In fact, I think Obama should call on U.S. employers to institute European vacation schedules. Italians take an average of 42 vacation days a year. The French know how to kick back as well, with a solid 37 days a year. Germans take 35; and even the British call it good with 28 days of relaxation.

Think how awesome it would be if we all could vacation like teachers do. A month of no work calls, meetings or e-mails. No deadlines to make or last-minute problems to fix. Only long naps, brunch dates with friends and leisurely walks about town — and, of course, spending those tourism dollars.

However, I do see a downside to all this time off. There would be no excuse for missing family reunions or your second cousin’s fourth wedding. Holidays wouldn’t seem as special because you just spent two whole weeks with grandma and grandpa, so Thanksgiving feels like just another meal. And, of course, as this is America, you would get paid less for working less. No free rides in this corporate-centered economy.

On second thought, maybe I should just keep working away in the coal mines looking forward to those precious 10 days of vacation I earn every year. I’ll let the Chinese and Brazilians keep the U.S. tourism industry in top form so when I do finally get away Anaheim will seem like paradise.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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