By Calvin W. Goings
In 2011, the U.S. travel and tourism industry generated $1.2 trillion from domestic and international travel and supported 7.6 million jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In 2012, Commerce projects 65.4 million foreign travelers will visit the United States. With the summer months ahead, small businesses in Washington should be prepared to capitalize on the expected increase in travel and tourism.
Last month, the Obama Administration announced its “National Travel and Tourism Strategy,” a set of policies, actions and recommendations proposed by the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, 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. This could help the industry add an estimated 2.1 million to 3.3 million jobs, benefitting small business owners and helping to create an economy built to last.
As a member of the Task Force, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) wants to ensure small businesses in Washington have the tools and resources required to start planning a successful summer and tourist season today.
For example, hire seasonal workers. If your business counts on the summer season or tourist trade, then start planning for seasonal workforce now. If new to this process, or you have questions about hiring and compensating seasonal workers (for instance, do you need to pay unemployment taxes for seasonal workers?) visit www.sba.gov for tips on hiring and working with seasonal workers.
The SBA can help finance seasonal working capital needs. If help is needed to meet short-term and cyclical working capital needs, such as building inventory for the season or paying workers, then 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 almost 1,800 loans worth $2.2 billion to travel and tourism-related small businesses. SBA also recommends that a marketing strategy be developed to encourage past customers – travelers and tourists alike – to come back to your business. There are several other things to do, as well: Get involved in local events and festivals, plan an event, or line up summer giveaways.
This summer, let SBA help make sure your small business is prepared to support the growing travel and tourism industry. It’s a win-win for small businesses and the economy alike.
Calvin Goings, a former Pierce County Council member, is an assistant associate administrator of the Small Business Administration.