'Travel Matters' is theme of National Tourism Week

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TRAVELMATTERSLOGOThe U.S. Travel Association's 26th annual National Tourism Week begins May 9, with a few new features, including a designated Travel Rally Day, when organizers around the country will stage gatherings to talk up the industry's importance to local economies.

Also new this year is the official name, "National Travel and Tourism Week," a more inclusive phrase that reflects U.S. Travel's broad mission to promote the interests of companies involved in business travel, meetings and conventions as well as discretionary travel.

The theme for 2009, "Travel Matters," builds on U.S. Travel's mission to educate policymakers and ordinary citizens about the economic impact of travel-related business and visitor activities on local and national economies, in terms of economic development, employment and tax revenue.

That has been a critical issue for U.S. Travel in recent months, as the industry has coped with a backlash against the use of upscale facilities for business trips and meetings by financial institutions and companies getting various forms of government aid.

To get the message out during Travel and Tourism Week, U.S. Travel is encouraging convention and visitors bureaus and other destination promotion boards to stage rallies in their communities on Travel Rally Day, May 12. As of last week, 30 cities had signed up to participate.

U.S. Travel has a toolkit and how-to guide on its website (www.ustravel.org), based in part on the experience of the Spokane (Wash.) Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, which staged such a rally in March as part of the industry's "Meetings Mean Business" campaign.

CVB spokeswoman Pam Scott said the rally was organized in the space of two days for a mere $781, which went for printing, audio-visual equipment rental and a photographer. Travel and tourism supports about 10,000 jobs in the region, and the CVB, she said, "wanted to show Spokane what would happen without this business." During the event, Mayor Mary Verner gave a brief speech and local hotel employees were on hand to talk to the media.

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