“Life is a journey.” How often have we heard that phrase or used it ourselves? Writers have noted that it is humankind’s most enduring metaphor. The notion of travel is hard-wired into the human experience. In ancient times, travel was motivated by the desire for exploration, discovery, and enrichment. And times haven’t changed much. To explore, to discover, and to become enriched still drives people to travel today.
The desire to travel – and modern society’s ability to do so – has made travel and tourism the number one industry of many countries of the world and the largest service sector export for the United States. The travel and tourism industry is one of the few industries credited with producing positive balance of trade results for the U.S. economy. It is one of the largest employers, developing workers at all levels and areas of expertise. Last year alone the U.S. travel industry generated more than 7.4 million jobs with over $186.3 billion in payroll income for Americans. Communities of all sizes benefit as well: the industry produces $100 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments. International visitors generated tax revenues of more than $113 billion. According to the United States Travel Association (USTA, 2010), each U.S. household would pay $950 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by travel and tourism. USTA also notes that direct spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averaged $1.9 billion a day, $80 million an hour, $1.3 million a minute and $22,300 a second.
But the travel and tourism industry is exceedingly complex. In fact, it has been called the “industry of industries,” recognizing the fact that travel-related companies range in size from multinational corporations operating out of high-rise towers to individuals selling travel products and services from their homes.
It is in this context that the University of South Carolina in the spring of 2004 launched the most comprehensive and inclusive travel and tourism industry research and outreach center in the United States as a joint effort of the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management and the Moore School of Business.
Funded in part through a generous grant from the prestigious Sloan Foundation, headquartered in New York, the center adopted the official name: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina.
Rich Harrill, Director
Robert Li, Associate Director
Travel & Tourism Industry Center
College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208