Nicole Kirksey: Why travel matters in Americus and Sumter County

Published 2:29 pm Saturday, May 11, 2019

We pass popular tourist sites like the historic Rylander Theatre and Andersonville National Historic Site every day; we may not even think of how it supports our community. But the Rylander, Andersonville NHS and others like Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village & Discovery Center, the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, the Boyhood Farm in Plains, Pat’s Place on Lee Street, Gladys’ on Highway 19 and Rosemary & Thyme at the Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel are the backbone of Georgia’s Sumter County. These places define our community, provide our families with jobs and have given us on average a documented 280,000 visitors annually — a lifetime of memories.

Travel matters, and it improves Americus and Sumter County in ways that have a wide-reaching impact on Sumter county residents. Travel supports 442 jobs in Americus and the surrounding county, and it also has an impact that we do not always see; travel can strengthen families, foster hometown pride, and build bridges that connect us with one another.

Travel matters to America

At the national level, travel is critical to the U.S. economy and American jobs. As a leader in workforce development and career advancement — travel creates and supports 15.7 million jobs across the U.S. — making it the seventh-largest private sector employer. In 2018, traveler spending generated $171 billion in total tax revenue, including $78.6 billion in state and local revenue. With the $78.6 billion, tourism can pay for a host of critical resources: it’s more than enough to pay all state and local police and fire fighters, or more than one million public high school teachers.

Travel is power for cities and states, and Americus-Sumter County is no exception. In Sumter County, visitors spend $46 million in what is known as direct tourist spending, and over $10 million is spent in payroll, while $1.35 million is collected in local tax revenues.

Think back to your first job. Maybe you worked at The Maze or The Station when you were in college. Perhaps you helped bag peanuts at Billy Salter’s shop in Plains, or maybe your kids work there now. For many — one-third of Americans to be exact — travel is the front door to a promising career. Americans whose first job was in travel have an average career salary of $81,900, and 2 in 5 of those whose first job was in travel are now earning more than $100,000.

Think about how travel matters to Plains and Andersonville, which happen to be small, well-loved tourist destinations. Travel-dependent leisure and hospitality is the largest small business employer in the U.S.

Those are just only a few reasons why it’s so important to keep welcoming visitors to Americus and Sumter County — and why our industry is elevating the message of “Travel Matters” during National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) May 5-11. We encourage you to join us in observing NTTW this year, and celebrate all that travel does for Georgia’s Sumter County, and for the country as a whole.

Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Join our daily rally:  10:30 a.m. today, May 8 — Georgia Rural Telephone Museum; 10:30 a.m. May 9 — National POW Museum and 11 a.m. Train Depot, Andersonville; 111:30 a.m. May 10 — Jackson Street Train Depot, downtown Americus and 2:30 p.m. Buffalo Café, Plains.
  • Contact our member of Congress and tell them why travel is important to Americus, Plains, Leslie, Desoto, and Andersonville.
  • Get social and engage with the #nttw19 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Share how travel matters in your community.
  • Support your local Americus-Sumter Tourism Council by following them on Facebook and Instagram at @AmericusSumterTourism and on Twitter @SeeSumterCounty. Make sure to stop by the Americus Visitor Center at 101 West Lamar Street.

Nicole Kirksey is director of Tourism for the City of Americus and Sumter County.