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The U.S. Travel Association wants Americans to choose more vacation time. As the nation is emerging from a long depression, this national organization of members of the travel industry announced an unprecedented effort to motivate American workers to use more of the vacation time they have earned.

Will Americans change habits that have become ingrained over two centuries of choosing work over play and begin to take more vacations?

According to US Travel, using more vacation days will put up to $160 billion dollars in the economy, grow employment and improve relationships. Of course, these extra days off would also mean more time for Americans to travel. And, that means more spending in the travel and tourism fields.

The US Travel initiative is based on recently released research from Oxford Economics that found Americans failed to use 429 million days of earned leave last year — just over three days per worker.

“This is an issue that goes well beyond the travel industry,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow. “A growing body of evidence shows that when we fail to take the time off we have earned, we are less productive and creative at work, we put stress on our relationships, and we undermine our personal health and well-being. Our initiative is simple and straightforward: Americans aren’t using all the days off they are entitled to and we have to change that.”

U.S. Travel presented its strategy in a new report entitled “The Day Off Dividend.” At the heart of the initiative is a “research roadmap” identifying original research opportunities to prove the benefits of time off from work to mental and physical health, education, careers, relationships and even healthy aging. The plan also relies on:

· Unique partnerships outside of travel, including engaging companies in the automotive, energy and retail industries, and research and academic organizations, non-profits and private foundations;

· Experts and opinion leaders to carry key research findings and core messages to audiences interested in health, business or family issues;

· A comprehensive media campaign, including a robust social media presence, dynamic website, earned media and targeted advertising.

The campaign is the first of its kind for the travel industry and aims to achieve nothing short of a cultural shift among American workers and employers. It is hoped that the effort will spark a national discussion by releasing a series of original research reports examining why American workers fail to use the time off they have earned and the negative impacts this creates.

This project, a research-driven initiative to prove the benefits of taking time off to the American economy, businesses and individuals, will be called Travel Effect.

Expedia, whose focus is selling vacations, has been touting a similar story for the past 13 years. Expedia has regularly released a Vacation Deprivation Study that examined the vacation habits of Americans and compares the American lifestyle to other countries and cultures. The differences are stark.

The Expedia study does not show an America that is moving in the direction of taking more time off like US Travel’s project is attempting to affect. In fact, Expedia’s latest study showed that “Americans left an average of four vacation days on the table in the past year, which is twice as many as the previous year.”

The economy directly affects Americans’ vacations. Plus, Americans often do not take vacations because they want to save up vacation days for future trips or because their companies pay them a bonus when they retire for vacation days not taken. The excuses for not taking vacations are many — “scheduling … budget, planning, too much work, workplace insecurity, and last, but not least, mean bosses.”

It seems that an improving economy and evolving corporate vacation policies that encourage time off rather than rewarding employees for vacation days not taken might be a more effective way to encourage vacations. Changing cultural habits is perhaps the most difficult task of any campaign.

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