According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. travel and tourism industry generated $1.2 trillion from domestic and international travel and supported 7.6 million jobs last year. This year, Commerce projects 65.4 million foreign travelers will visit the United States. With the summer months ahead of us, small businesses in the Adirondacks should be prepared to capitalize on the expected increase in travel and tourism.
Last month, the Obama administration unveiled its National Travel and Tourism Strategy, a set of policies, actions and recommendations proposed by the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness. The idea behind this initiative is to promote domestic and international travel throughout the United States. The goal is to attract 100 million international visitors annually who would spend an estimated $250 billion each year by the end of 2021. It is estimated that this could add another 2.1 million to 3.3 million jobs to the travel and tourism industry. Of course, the benefactor of this program would be small business owners who are helping to create an economy built to last.
As a member of this Task Force, the U.S. Small Business Administration wants to ensure that small businesses in and around the Adirondack region have all the necessary tools and resources needed to start planning a successful summer and tourist season.
For example, the SBA provides business with free advice through the New York State Small Business Development Centers, SCORE and Women's Business Centers. All three organizations are dedicated to providing seasonal businesses with timely advice and counsel on marketing and how to attract new customers this summer season. Counselors can be found at www.northcountrysbdc.org, clintonfranklinessex.score.org, and www.nywbc.org.
SBA can also help finance a small business owner's seasonal working capital needs. If a business needs help meeting its short-term and cyclical working capital needs, such as building inventory for the season or paying workers, then they might want to consider a short-term loan or line of credit such as SBA's CAPLines program, which provides advances against anticipated inventory and accounts receivable to help businesses with seasonal sales fluctuations. The program was recently streamlined to make it easier for small business owners to get financing even if collateral is tight. Last year, the SBA approved approximately 1,800 loans worth $2.2 billion to travel and tourism-related small businesses.
If your business counts on the summer season or tourist trade, you probably have already started planning your seasonal workforce by now. If your small business is new to this process or has questions about hiring and compensating seasonal workers (for example, do you need to pay unemployment taxes for seasonal workers?) you can visit www.sba.gov for tips on hiring and working with seasonal workers.
The SBA also recommends that small business owners develop a marketing strategy now to encourage past customers - travelers and tourists alike - to return to your business. There are several other things you can do as well, such as: get involved in local events/festivals, plan your own event, and take your business to vacationers and day trippers or line-up summer giveaways. You may even think about ideas on how to lengthen your season.
This summer let's make sure you and your fellow small business owners are prepared to support and be a part of our growing travel and tourism industry. It's a win-win situation for all small businesses in the Adirondacks.
Jorge Silva-Puras is the Region II Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Region II encompasses New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.