National Travel and Tourism Week runs May 4-12 - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Let the packing begin: Tourism Week celebrated across U.S.

People take a look around the Alamo in San Antonio, TX, a common tourist spot that draws visitors from around the U.S. (Source: KTVN) People take a look around the Alamo in San Antonio, TX, a common tourist spot that draws visitors from around the U.S. (Source: KTVN)

(RNN) – Although Memorial Day is almost three weeks away, the official beginning of the travel season has already arrived.

May 4 through 12 is National Travel and Tourism Week, and cities across America are observing it with rallies and other celebrations for a multi-trillion dollar industry that is vital to the life of the economy.

The Gulf Coast, still in recovery mode from natural and man-made disasters in recent years, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of tourism.

Hotel workers in New Orleans celebrated this week with a Louisiana-style parade and for good reason. The hospitality industry supplied 10 percent of jobs in the state.

"We had 23.6 million visitors in Louisiana last year spending $10.6 billion, $656 million in direct taxes to the state by people visiting," Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne told WWL. "So that means jobs – 8,000 new jobs in Louisiana."

Nationally, the impact of the industry becomes even more critical.

One in every eight jobs in the U.S. depends on travel and tourism, according to the U.S. Travel Association. It is also estimated that nearly one-fifth of every American worker started his or her career in the travel business.

Of the $2 trillion total economic output in 2012, domestic and international travelers directly spent more than $855 billion. That created another $1 trillion spent in other industries.

"Travel jobs provide important, transferable skills that are indispensable to career success," said USTA president and chief executive officer Roger Dow in the organization's recent report. "Careers in travel deliver financial security with the majority of travel industry workers earning a middle-class income or higher."

Travelers set records for hotel room stays in last year, and that demand is expected to increase this year, according to Smith Travel Research, a company that tracks hotel trends.

The demand for rooms is outpacing contractors' ability to construct them.

Congress passed a joint resolution in 1983 to designate the first full week in May as National Tourism Week, and it was first celebrated in 1984.

The industry has grown to become a top 10 employer in 48 states.

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