In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), GO Laurel Highlands, the destination marketing organization for Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties, spotlights the critical role that travel will play in driving economic recovery efforts and building the path forward through the theme “Power of Travel.”

Celebrated annually the first full week in May, NTTW was created by Congress in 1983 to elevate the economic power of travel in the U.S. The 38th annual NTTW, taking place May 2-8, arrives at an opportune moment to recognize the importance to the U.S. economy of initiating a post-pandemic travel recovery.

“NTTW takes on a special significance this year as the travel industry looks to rebound quickly from the pandemic and accelerate recovery efforts,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The past year was incredibly challenging, but we saw the full power of the travel industry on display in the way we united and supported one another through this crisis.”

Prior to the pandemic, the United States travel industry was a powerful economic engine, supporting jobs and driving local economies in every pocket of America. The national industry had experienced 107 straight months of growth, generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the United States.

Closer to home, before the pandemic, the Laurel Highlands travel and tourism industry employed a prosperous and diverse workforce, from hotel employees to restaurant, attraction and retail workers, and supported related sectors such as construction, manufacturing and finance.

According to the data from the 2019 edition of “The Economic Impact of Travel in Pennsylvania”:

  • Travelers spent $1.92 billion in Laurel Highlands — a new record high and fastest rate of growth for the region since 2011 — up roughly 4% from $1.84 billion in 2018;
  • Nearly 12% or 15,185 jobs were supported by travel and tourism in the Laurel Highlands region;
  • Tourism in the region generated $107.1 million in state and local taxes; $99.2 million in federal taxes.

However, the travel industry is resilient.

“NTTW provides us with the opportunity to highlight our travel industry and to showcase the resilient nature of our tourism partners,” GO Laurel Highlands Executive Director Ann Nemanic said. “Our #LHStrong campaign launched during the onset of the pandemic provided a stable message during uncertain times. Shortly thereafter, our focus centered upon our outdoor recreational assets and that messaging will continue through 2021. We continue to see double-digit recovering each and every month which to me accentuates our region is a destination of choice.”

During NTTW, GO Laurel Highlands will host two open house events in its new location, 113 East Main St. on the Diamond in Ligonier. Visitors will have an opportunity to meet the GO Laurel Highlands staff, tour office space and become familiar with more than 3,500 tourism businesses in the region.

Also during NTTW, the Laurel Highlands will be showcased through displays at eight Pennsylvania Welcome Centers.

In addition, GO Laurel Highlands is partnering with seven other Western Pennsylvania destination marketing organizations (Beaver County Tourism, Visit Butler County, Crawford County CVB, Visit Erie, Visit Lawrence County, Visit Mercer County, and VisitPittsburgh) in a cross-promotion sweepstakes from May 2-9. Each organization will supply the others with $100 gift cards or incentives to be given away during the week via social media.

Laurel Highlands-themed prizes include gift cards from Greenhouse Winery to pair with the Laurel Highlands Pour Tour passports, admissions to Living Treasures Wild Animal Park, and gift cards from Valley Dairy to honor Latrobe, the birthplace of the banana split.

“The ‘Power of Travel’ is a perfectly timed theme,” Nemanic said. “Every individual has the power and personal choice to help our industry recover. Travel is a powerful tool; one that aids in one’s physical and mental wellbeing. The Laurel Highlands is a destination where these elements are intricately woven into the fabric of our landscape. I encourage everyone to plan their next visit to our wide-open spaces made for exploring.”

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