Overcrowded roads, crumbling bridges, and annoying airports are not only part of life's daily hassles, tourism officials say the problem is getting so severe that it has become a threat to the nation's more than one trillion dollar a year travel industry, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Erik Hanson of the U.S. Travel Association told the 9th annual Texas Transportation Forum at the Grand Hyatt that the situation has become so bad that Americans are becoming hesitant about traveling, and people from other countries are opting to travel elsewhere, where the transportation system is more predictable.
"The Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau will tell you that his biggest competition is not Atlanta, and not Miami," Hanson told the transportation planners in attendance. "His biggest competition is congestion."
Hanson says travel and tourism directly or indirectly employs one out of every eight Americans, and if every American family were to decide just to take one less local or regional trip each year due to annoying TSA groping, crowded highways or worries that they'll be stuck in traffic for hours, the result will by 250,000 jobs lost and a $23 billion hit to the U.S. economy.
"The markets that you have access to now are actually changing, due to the performance of our infrastructure network," he said. "At the peak times, where we need it to perform the best, it is actually slowing down."
Hanson says problems with roads, bridges, and airports due to lack of investment is the equivalent of cities moving 'further away' from vacation destinations. He said Pittsburgh used to be a prime location for visitors to Ocean City New Jersey, but visitors are no longer coming from Pittsburgh because people now consider Ocean City to be 'too far away' for a weekend trip.' Obviously, Pittsburgh and Ocean City are the same distance apart they have always been, but people in Pittsburgh view Ocean City as more distant simply because the roads are now more clogged.
He said the development of the highway system created the modern tourism industry. He pointed out that the huge Marriott and Holiday Inn hotel chains started not as convention hotels in the downtowns of big cities, but in the fifties at intersections of the new Interstate Highway System.
"The highways created modern tourism, and lack of investment in highways can destroy modern tourism," Hanson warned.
He used Labor Day as an example. He said we receive warning from the media weeks ahead of time to avoid travel by highway on Labor Day because the roads will simply be too congested.
"In twenty years, by 2035, average daily traffic volumes will resemble Labor Day, on the average day," he warned.