Butler County’s travel industry spotlighted for National Travel and Tourism Week

People visit Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, a popular place for people who are visiting Butler County to check out. CONTRIBUTED

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People visit Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, a popular place for people who are visiting Butler County to check out. CONTRIBUTED

This week, Butler County Visitors Bureau will join in the celebration of the 39th annual National Travel and Tourism Week in conjunction with the U.S. Travel Association.

The week-long celebration, happening now through May 7, will include initiatives and events focused on raising awareness and highlighting local tourism. This year’s theme is the “Future of Travel.”

“The week’s main, real purpose is to shine a positive light on the travel industry across the country, and there are a number of activities and ways we do that,” said Mark Hecquet, president and CEO of Travel Butler County

He said amusement parks, airlines, cruise lines and hotels are all a part of travel industry.

“This week, there’s much more of an emphasis, and much more of a need to really talk about the resurgence of travel, or perhaps the future of travel, and where it’s going,” Hecquet said.

He said one thing that’s come out of the pandemic is that we all lost travel and that has shone a bright light on how much we all need it. So, we are going to use the week as an opportunity to talk about the resurgence of travel, it’s importance, and how it’s innovating.

“From a national standpoint, all of the organizations in the travel industry have been encouraged to get out this week and celebrate the importance of travel, and why it’s so important for all of our communities, businesses, and welcoming travelers, and how it impacts all of us as residents,” Hecquet said.

On Monday, Travel Butler County will be participating in the “Turn Twitter Red” campaign, and all of the organization’s Twitter posts will be focused on the “Future of Travel.”

“One of the things we are going to talk about is there’s a little bit of misconception in the travel space right now. There’s a true belief that travel is back as an industry, but in reality, that’s not actually true,” Hecquet said. “We look at three key segments of travel. One is business travel, international travel, and domestic, leisure travel.”

He said domestic leisure travel has come back in robust style, and it has exceeded pre-pandemic levels, but the other two, business travel and international travel are still way behind, when it comes to recovery.

“Why is that important to Butler County? Well, our county relies significantly on business travel,” Hecquet said.

The hotel community in Butler County, especially in West Chester, Liberty Twp. and Fairfield, is 50 to 60 percent of their business, he said.

Another major issue has been that there’s a workforce shortage in the travel industry. Rebuilding the workforce remains as one of the most pressing challenges coming out of the pandemic.

Forecasters are saying things will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, and that’s just returning to what it was, not factoring in any growth. International travel is not expected to recover until 2025, to pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s going to be a slow struggle to get back, but what is fortunate for us is we’ve been able to capture a lot of weekend business, and that has really helped our hotel community get back on a good path, and I’m really optimistic that our county will recover quicker than what national forecasters are predicting right now,” Hecquet explained.

In Butler County, he said, there has been an increase in leisure travelers, and those who want a quick, weekend getaway.

“We’ve seen a massive push in the domestic leisure traveler, and that’s going very robustly,” said Hecquet. “We think we have a lot of assets to appeal to that audience.”

One huge theme in the county this year has been “self-care,” he said.

“The pandemic has worn us all down, and we haven’t really taken an opportunity to take care of ourselves, So we’re promoting things like getting out to Pyramid Hill, or going canoeing on the Great Miami River, to take these moments to think about yourself. We’ve also done things to promote our spas in town, and things like that, so it’s really about self-care.” Hecquet stressed.

There are also beautiful parks and kid-friendly attractions in Butler County like EnterTRAINment Junction.

“The real theme we’re pushing in our county is an awareness that we all need to look at taking care of ourselves, and travel is one way to do that, to restore the batteries, and get away from the grind of work and things like that,” said Hecquet.

He said the travel and tourism business in Butler County is over a billion-dollar industry. There are over 15,000 people in the county that work in the travel and tourism industry, or they work in an industry that is influenced by travel. It’s also a growing industry in Butler County.

“We have things like Spooky Nook Sports coming in. We have new restaurants, attractions and hotels. It is a growing industry,” Hecquet said.

During National Travel and Tourism Week, travel and tourism professionals across the country will unite to celebrate the value that travel holds for the economy, businesses, communities and individuals.

Locally, it will showcase the assets in Butler County and call attention to the importance of the travel industry.

“The best two things people can do to support National Travel and Tourism Week are number one, go out and explore some of the things in the community, whether that be a local restaurant or an attraction. That’s always the best way to understand what we have to offer. Then, people can go and invite friends, family and loved ones to come visit them, and explore the attractions with them in the future,” said Tracy Kocher, vice president of marketing and communications at Travel Butler County.

Other ways to get out and see local amenities might be to explore a local park you haven’t been to, check out notable historic sites, or to stop into a new shop or boutique in the area.

National Travel and Tourism Week is organized by the U.S. Travel Association, the national non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry. In 2020, travel generated $1.5 trillion in economic output and supported 11 million jobs, a drastic decline from pre-pandemic figures.

Celebrated annually the first week in May, NTTW was created by Congress in 1983 to highlight the economic power of travel in the U.S. For more information on local travel, visit www.gettothebc.com.

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