U.S. Travel Association CEO and President visits STHM
Only a few minutes into his presentation, Roger Dow cued up a video. The words “Dearly departed vacation days” scrolled across the screen, drawing a chuckle from Temple University students.
“I’ll admit – our video is funny,” said Dow. “But its message is anything but.”
Dow is President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association (U.S. Travel), the nation’s foremost leader in helping grow travel and tourism to and within the United States. U.S. Travel has researched the how and why behind the United States’ gradual move toward becoming, in his words, a “no-vacation nation.” From 1976-2000, Americans used an average of 20.3 vacation days each year. In 2015, that number plummeted to 16.2.
“Our workforce, particularly Millennials, have to realize that creativity flows when you stop for a few days to recharge your batteries,” Dow said.
Dow spoke to students from Temple’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management Wednesday, Feb. 8 as part of its 2017 Executive in Residence speaker series.
Dow and U.S. Travel have championed the use of data in their research-driven initiative, “Project: Time Off.” Launched in 2014 under the name Travel Effect and renamed in 2015, Project: Time Off promotes the use of vacation time and correlates it to personal well-being, professional success, and economic expansion. According to a Project: Time Off study, Americans annually allow 658 million vacation days to go unused and forfeit $61.4 billion in work benefits.
“For us, research is everything,” Dow said. “Numbers tell a story that our words and promotional videos sometimes cannot.”
U.S. Travel is a national non-profit organization that represents all components of the travel and tourism industries, which support 15.1 million jobs and generate $2.1 trillion toward the economy. In all, Dow said, one of nine jobs in the U.S. is rooted in travel and tourism.
Dow’s visit coincided with STHM’s continued growth and momentum. Home to a nationally ranked Tourism and Hospitality Management undergraduate program, STHM also is one of the first nationally to offer a Master of Science in Travel & Tourism degree program. The 30-credit online program, which will launch in Fall 2017, will address challenges facing the tourism industry, through analytical and critical thinking. The program can be completed in 13 months.
“You can climb in this industry through the operations side,” Dow said, “but there’s a point when you must be equipped to understand the finances or business principles. I’m not sure I know of another school that offers a graduate program along these lines.”
Dow’s message to STHM’s students did not revolve solely around U.S. Travel’s research endeavors. The tourism executive shared a story of an encounter with John Willard “Bill” Marriott, the chairman of Marriott International, and one of Dow’s close friends and mentors. On a Marriott Hotels visit, Dow witnessed Marriott engaging with each of his employees – from those in housekeeping or working the door, to those managing high-level operations.
“I learned that day the importance of taking care of your employees, because they will take care of your customers and your business will thrive as a result,” Dow said.
Close to 200 students and local industry leaders attended Dow’s presentation, at which former Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Jack Ferguson, who recently founded the hospitality consulting firm JPF Solutions, LLC, served as moderator.
Before he closed his program, Dow again emphasized the value of downtime.
“Because Millennials are entering the workplace in one of the toughest economies, I think young people are scared to leave the desk because they want to demonstrate how much they are needed,” Dow said. “But when you ask them about their favorite memories, they don’t mention emails they received. They talk about their first beach trip, or the first fish they caught, or their first visit to Disney World.”