TAMPA — Roger Dow broke down the impact of tourism on the American economy like this: 33 international travelers visiting this country generates one job here.
"Every plane that lands," Dow said, "can bring up to nine jobs with it."
Those were the kinds of factoids that made Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the ideal speaker to kick off National Tourism Week at Tampa International Airport on Monday morning.
In a bit of symmetry, Dow addressed the tourism pep rally from inside the gleaming new Airside F at Tampa International Airport. He took the stage alongside some of Tampa Bay's top tourism officials: Pinellas County Commissioner and Tourist Development Council chair Ken Welch; Pinellas tourism chief D.T. Minich; Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano; and Hillsborough County tourism CEO Santiago Corrada, who officially started work on Monday.
The airside's $27 million renovation has nearly doubled the space to 78,000 square feet and created more room for more security checkpoints, expanded immigration facilities and extra baggage carousals. Airside F is used by international travelers, which Tampa International and the rest of the country are seeing increase.
"There were 62 million international visitors last year, up 8 percent," Dow said. "Joe (Lopano) tells me you're up 34 percent." Dow said the Tampa Bay area was kicking butt in that regard, although his exact phrasing cannot be repeated in a family newspaper.
"When someone comes here from overseas, they spend $4,500 per person," Dow said. "That's $9,000 for a couple. And the great thing is when they come here, they leave their money here when they go home."
Dow rattled off statistic after statistic demonstrating how the nation benefits economically from domestic and international tourism — and how it has bounced back from the recession and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
He said tourism generates about $2 trillion annually for the U.S. economy, contributes $130 billion in taxes a year for government at the local, state and federal level, and employs 14 million Americans — half working directly in the tourism industry itself.
He said his organization forecasts that domestic tourism will grow 2 percent this year and that domestic tourism spending will grow 4 percent. International tourism will expand by 4 to 5 percent, but spending is expected to jump 12 percent.
Dow said automatic federal spending cuts mandated by sequestration could impact the industry, but less so now. He said the industry was buoyed last week by new federal legislation that will allow the FAA to cut its budget without furloughing air traffic controllers. That should eliminate delays in commercial airline service.
But he also warned that the tourism industry will be hurt by the reduction in government travel.