In the travel industry, the phenomenon called “time poverty” means we are starving ourselves of discretionary time to relax, to recreate, to vacation.
For a myriad of reasons, people are working harder and longer than ever predicted. As well, responsibilities on the home front completely eat up whatever discretionary time is left over.
We have a desire to get away from it all, but no time.
Government statisticians report that between 1976 and 2000, Americans averaged a consistent 20 vacation days per year. Those were the good times. Since then, vacation days have declined to just 16 days. As some of the unused days cannot be banked or rolled over, Americans lose 169,000,000 vacation days annually. This lack of vacationing costs the economy $275 billion in lost travel spending ... an amazing 1.7 percent of gross domestic product – proof that for the tourism industry, time is money.
Time poverty was further exacerbated during the recession, when workers were either laid off or continued to work under the fear of losing their jobs. Workers were reluctant to take their hard-earned vacations or dip into savings accounts not knowing where their world was headed. It just wasn’t a good idea to vacate your desk for a week to go camping.
Now, with the recession in the rear-view mirror, the travel industry has made a strong recovery, mainly stemming from pent-up demand. Modern-era Americans feel a vacation is not a luxury, but a necessity. Currently, travel for vacation is increasing faster than business travel. Makes sense – instead of flying to that business meeting they’ll just Skype you in ... but they can’t Skype a suntan.
An increasing trend countering time poverty is the blurring of business and vacation travel. Technology allows for blending the family getaway with keeping in touch with the office. What’s more fun than sending the water cooler gang a selfie of you riding up a Colorado ski-area chairlift?
So, time is the new currency, and people are spending it again. In 2013-14, Colorado set new records for both tourist visitation and dollars spent. End-of-year tourism tracking reports predict 2014-15 will again set records. With an improving economy and plummeting gas prices, the outlook for next summer looks very good.
What does this mean on the ground? With all the vacation choices available to travelers, when they choose our area to spend their precious time and hard-earned money, they deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. They have put their faith in our tourism providers, and they trust that the experiences they have will meet or exceed their expectations.
Finally, for the tourism industry, old adages apply: “Treat people as you would like to be treated” and “We only get one chance to make a good first impression.”
Durango is a destination people want to visit, and when their precious time is well spent, people tell others and come back for more.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.