by Tim Wood
Last updated: 9:30 AM ET, Fri February 12, 2016
It's that time again where Presidential candidates make grandiose promises, like creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. But a unique campaign from the U.S. Travel Association is out to show the candidates that just by merely campaigning, they're creating plenty of jobs in the travel industry.
A number of reporters and business travelers tweeted about a different kind of billboard in the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H. that popped up weeks before the New Hampshire primary.
The billboard drives home the point that simply by "bloviating about jobs" the race is creating plenty of economic impact. U.S. Travel already pushes the message that the travel industry powers one in nine jobs in the U.S. economy. This message makes it more personal for the candidates and their road warrior campaigns.
"Candidates are constantly extolling the value of specific economic sectors from the stump: manufacturing, tech, ag. How about travel?" said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "The value of our industry as a job creator is measurable in every congressional district in this country, and the campaign season itself provides very visible evidence."
Many travelers asked if this is more of a public service ad, something the airport uses when they have unsold signage space. In fact, this was just the early stages of a calculated effort by U.S. Travel to create public awareness of the value that travel brings to the economy.
And what better time to spread the message than during election season, when the message is the thing? U.S. Travel thought that there was no better place to extoll the values of travel than New Hampshire, where the first-in-the-nation primary host becomes its own economic ecosystem every four years. Thousands of reporters, political operatives and candidate groupies come to town for a 90-day burst that can make or break a restaurant the same way a strong summer tourist season boosts a beach town.
READ MORE: 10 Easy Ways To Travel More In 2016
Economics at U.S. Travel are betting that they can put a value on the influx of politicos. In New Hampshire, every visitor during campaign season spends approximately $350 per day on hotels, rental cars, meals and other essentials of life on the campaign trail.
Over the past five presidential election cycles, hotel occupancy in the Granite State is estimated to be 78,400 room-nights higher in the primary year than in any of the other three years of the cycle. Factor in the state's going price for hotels and that's an extra $8.9 million of politics-fueled revenue infused into the state's business economy.
The added dollars ad up to jobs. Every $80,700 in visitor spending in New Hampshire creates one job, according to U.S. Travel economists. That means that for every 33 reporters and campaign staffers coming to the state to cover the primaries for seven days, one job is created.
That's all the more important when there are so many viable candidates, like we are seeing with the record number of hopefuls in the Republican race.
U.S. Travel executive vice president of public affairs Jonathan Grella said the idea for the awareness campaign was actually tested during the baseball season at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
"We did a banner over the parking garage facing the field that highlighted that travel powers one in nine jobs," Grella said. "Travel equals fun to everyone, as well it should. But this is a way to remind folks that it's also serious business."
READ MORE: What We Can Learn from USTA's First Travel Trends Index
He said the campaign was conceived as one more way to create awareness with political decision makers, so that when adversity hits, they will consider the travel industry when crafting policy.
"From Ebola to Zika to government shutdowns, there are consequences that have real impacts on jobs if we close borders, restrict visitors or close national parks," Grella said.
[BLURB] "From Ebola to Zika to government shutdowns, there are consequences that have real impacts on jobs if we close borders, restrict visitors or close national parks." Jonathan Grella, USTA[/BLURB]
U.S. Travel's campaign will continue throughout the election season, beginning with messaging on hotel key cards now through Saturday in Greenville, S.C., the site of the next Republican debate.
Additional site plans are being finalized, but you will definitely see the messaging in July both in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention and in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, as well as the final general election debate this fall in Las Vegas.
"The beautiful part is this isn't like buying ads in Time Square, so we can really get bang for the buck," Grella said. "We'll be at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, because we know our target audience will be taking trains in from New York and D.C. And we'll focus on airport terminals in Cleveland that specifically cater to New York and D.C. flights and on cab billboards in Vegas."
Grella is encouraged by the early feedback on the campaign and put his best stump speech pitch forward for the candidates, going the Marco Rubio repetitive route.
"A vote for travel is a vote for a primary industry that powers one in nine American jobs," he said.
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