If we didn’t call it travel, we might call it renewal.

National Travel and Tourism Week — established in 1983 by President Reagan and observed this year May 5 to 11 — celebrates the practice and people who help recharge our energies and renew our spirits through the joy of new experiences.

This year’s theme is “Travel Matters,” and those words ring true on a multitude of levels. Let’s consider:

  • Travel matters to the economy. In 2018 travel generated $2.5 trillion for the U.S. economy. Tax revenue from travel spending for federal, state and local governments totaled $171 billion. Without these travel-generated tax revenues, each household would pay an average of $1,340 more in taxes every year to maintain the same level of services. Here in Walworth County, the news is great. Direct visitor spending from 2017 to 2018 increased 4.6 percent to $569 million. That means 7,123 people are working because of tourism in this county, adding 151 more jobs this past year.
  • Travel matters to families. It’s a time to connect, recharge, experience new adventures and create memories that last a lifetime. In many ways it’s one of the best parts of life.
  • Travel matters because it provides opportunities to learn about the world around you. Exploring a new place gives you perspective on history, geography, culture and cuisine.
  • Travel matters for your health. Research shows us that people who take their vacations are healthier, happier, more mentally alert and more physically fit. With increasing rates of anxiety and depression, your body and mind need to unplug. Give yourself that gift.
  • Travel matters for nurturing creativity. When was the last time you heard someone say, “I was in my cubicle, and I had the most fabulous idea.” But send someone sailing on Geneva Lake or hiking through Kishwauketoe and the creativity soars.

For the past eight years, I was honored to serve as Wisconsin’s secretary of tourism. We had eight straight years of positive economic growth in the state, and I’m excited for my new role as CEO of VISIT Lake Geneva. There’s an enormous intangible when you live in a place that offers so much to do and beauty that stops you in your tracks.

In my short time here, I’ve already heard countless stories from residents regarding the hometown pride they feel. Without knowing it, they have become our community’s best ambassadors, telling everyone they know why this area is unbeatable.

Travel matters, and you do, too. So take that vacation and experience what I refer to as the 4 R’s — relax , recharge, refresh and roam. Don’t let the world pass you by.

Stephanie Klett is president of VISIT Lake Geneva, the organization created in 2016 through a merger of the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.