Local businesses that contribute to and benefit from the travel industry are invited to a National Travel and Tourism Week Rally Day reception at 10 am Tuesday, May 5, in the Community Room of the Angelina/Lufkin Chamber and Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau Offices, 1615 S Chestnut Drive. Tara Watson-Watkins, executive director of the Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau, encourages attendees to wear red to show support for tourism and its impact on the local economy.
“Travel and tourism has a big impact on our economy and our quality of life,” Watson-Watkins said. “Businesses like hotels, restaurants, event venues and stores see direct benefits, and then there are ripple effects throughout the community. Studies show that annual visitor spending continues to increase, so this is an industry that is still growing. For our Rally Day celebration, we want to acknowledge that impact and then share some ways we can all help support the travel industry here in Angelina County.”
National Travel and Tourism Week is an annual tradition that was established by a congressional resolution in 1983 and serves to champion the power of the industry. The theme for this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week is “Travel is _________.” There are several ways to fill in the blank here in Angelina County, Watson-Watkins said, and the CVB will be placing signs around the community and sharing daily Facebook posts to raise awareness of the travel industry’s impact on the local economy.
“In Angelina County, travel is serious business,” Watson-Watkins said. “According to the latest studies, the travel industry supports 1,400 jobs in Angelina County. Visitors to Angelina County spent $132.1 million in 2013. That’s up from $49 million in 1990, a 4.4 percent increase.”
Many of those visitors come for conventions and meetings. Lufkin hosted seven conventions last year, including the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association, Texas Local Fire Fighters’ Pension Educational Conference and the Texas Forestry Association. In 2014, conventions accounted for $291,000 spent in the community and 3,700 room nights.
“We are growing our convention industry,” Watson-Watkins said. “This year we have already hosted the Conservation Fund’s annual board meeting, with over 75 in attendance from all across the U.S., and are getting ready to host Texas Big Game in two weeks.
“The newly renovated Convention Center is playing a big role in convention bids, and the community works with us to make that part of the tourism industry grow. For several of the conventions we have been able to host, local members of a regional or statewide organization have worked with us to present a bid for their annual convention. For example, the Texas Local Fire Fighters’ Retirement Act worked with our local TLFFRA chapter to help bid on and facilitate their conference here. We appreciate the opportunity to work with our community to build those relationships that help grow Lufkin tourism and business.”
Travel and tourism also contributes to the quality of life in Angelina County by supporting annual events many residents enjoy.
“Visitors have a big impact on our special events,” Watson-Watkins said. “When people come to Angelina County for a show at The Pines Theater or the Neches River Rendezvous or Lufkin’s Bistro, it encourages us to make those events bigger and better the next year. And the bigger and better the event, the more visitors we can attract. It’s a growth industry that helps us cultivate a stronger cultural community and more options for leisure and entertainment.”
Studies show more than one-third of visitors to Angelina County come to see family or friends, and Watson-Watkins says local travel professionals cater to those visitors with old-fashioned hospitality and an abundance of family-friendly entertainment.
“We have business travelers and vacationers, but most of our visitors come here because they know someone here,” Watson-Watkins said. “That’s why we treat every visitor like family. Because they are.”