May 7-13 is National Travel & Tourism Week, which highlights the tourism industry and the many benefits it provides to our communities.

This year the theme is "Travel Forward." It celebrates the industry's critical role in powering economies, communities and connections.

Travel matters to the economies of our local communities. In Alaska, one in 10 jobs is related to the tourism industry, making it one of the top employers in the state. In Alaska, tourism generates $4.5 billion in total economic spending, which has a major impact.

Travel also matters for new experiences. From our national parks to our cities and our small towns, travel offers unique experiences for every traveler. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 72 percent of Americans would rather spend money on new experiences than physical items.

Travel is important for families. Travel helps families connect, creating memories and developing lifelong bonds. When surveyed by the U.S. Travel Association, most children (61 percent) say the best way to spend quality time with parents is on vacation and 62 percent of adults say that their earliest, most vivid memories are of family vacations.

Travel has an impact on our health. By taking a vacation, we get to escape the day-to-day stresses that our jobs have, allowing travelers to relax and refresh. It leads to more productivity, a better outlook on life and personal well being.

Don't take our word for it. Make plans to travel this summer and you'll not only come back recharged, you'll also be supporting local communities and helping create jobs for others. The future of travel is bright!