As Mississippi emerges from the pandemic and begins its next chapter of tourism growth, it’s time to turn the page and confidently look ahead. A time to envision a future for our state’s travel industry that is bold and imaginative, designed to help our communities, small businesses and residents thrive in today’s global marketplace.
This National Travel and Tourism Week (May 1-7), Mississippi Tourism Association recognizes the Future of Travel and the critical role the state’s $6.7 billion tourism industry will play in rebuilding our local economies, enhancing the quality of place of our communities, encouraging and championing new innovations and reconnecting Americans to each other through effective marketing and storytelling.
As we look to the future of travel, this week also gives us an opportunity to applaud state lawmakers and public leaders for recognizing the immense value tourism holds for Mississippi’s future economic growth and investing in its vitality. Mississippi has been a national leader in tourism recovery due to the forward-thinking approach that was conceived by the state’s tourism community and legislative leaders. Equipped with recovery resources, our state’s fourth-largest industry will have a strong foundation to build upon to strengthen and generate significant revenue for our state’s financial future.
Travel is a significant economic driver and an important part of who we are as a state. Before the pandemic took its toll on Mississippi’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry, the state hosted 24.7 million visitors annually and supported more than 122,000 jobs. As we strategically grow our tourism product and visitation in Mississippi, it is critical that we maintain an awareness of consumer travel sentiment and travel trends at the national and global levels.
Nationally, travel generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs, and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the U.S. in 2019—proof that travel will have a tremendous role to play in Mississippi’s and America’s economic recovery.
However, this vital revenue source was severely diminished amid the pandemic. In Mississippi, travel losses totaled over $2.6 billion during the pandemic, which resulted in $107 million in losses of state taxes and $32 million in losses of local taxes.
Uneven recovery within the travel industry will further delay America’s overall economic recovery. To help return our industry to sustained growth, we must continue to strategically work together towards a more prosperous future for the millions of American workers whose livelihoods depend on this industry.
The future of travel is sustainable, innovative, seamless and globally competitive. From the delta and hills to the pines and rivers to our capital city and Gulf coastline, promoting Mississippi as a premier destination for global travel is more important than ever as we recover from steep losses.
The pandemic was a setback, but it’s also an opportunity to reimagine Mississippi’s tourism industry. With our industry’s continued collaboration with lawmakers and leaders, businesses in Mississippi can recover more quickly and rebuild the travel industry to be more dynamic, innovative, sustainable and competitive than ever before.
Danielle Morgan is Executive Director, Mississippi Tourism Association.