Planning a trip sometime soon? You probably think that if you are, you’re doing it just to have a good time with your family or to take care of business at a conference or meeting. But when you pack your bags and travel, you’re providing extraordinary benefit for the economy, job creation, your own health and that of your loved ones—and even your performance in the workplace.

Don’t worry: a huge body of research backs you up on this. If you think you’re just ditching the office for a week, give yourself a pat on the back instead.

The U.S. travel industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has recovered far faster than other economic sectors from jobs lost to the recession. Travel supports one out of nine jobs and generated $2.1 trillion in economic output in 2014. Lest you think most of that benefit went to big destinations, check out the local stats:

  • An estimated 3 million overnight visitors come to Springfield annually along with thousands of day trip visitors.

  • More than 19,000 people are employed in hospitality and leisure positions in Greene County.

  • Tourism is an $11.6 billion industry in Missouri and generated $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue in FY13

  • Greene County Generates more than $622 million in direct tourism-related expenditures each year.

In an era when bad news about the U.S. trade imbalance is the norm, not everyone realizes that travel is among the top-performing American exports. It counts as an export because when international travelers visit the U.S., they are spending foreign currency on U.S. goods and services. Travel now accounts for 10 percent of U.S. exports and is, in fact, the country’s second-largest industry export. And the best part? Travel jobs cannot be outsourced—all the jobs supported by inbound international travel are right here in the United States.

The good news about travel is not all in economic facts and figures. Travel also holds remarkable positives for our personal lives.

Couples that travel together are more likely to make it past the five-year mark and less likely to divorce, according to a survey from the U.S. Travel Association and Edge Research. More than 90 percent of kids see family vacations as a chance for “quality time” with their parents. What’s more, kids who travel are more likely to earn a college degree, and have on average a $5,000 higher median income as adults. People who travel are also less stressed and happier at work. Eight in 10 senior citizens say travel makes them feel energized.

Given the extraordinary effect of travel, and in light of National Travel and Tourism Week May 2-10, we should seek more avenues to support and expand the industry.

Modernizing our travel infrastructure is one critical step. Not a single U.S. airport is ranked in the top 25 in the world. Even though Americans are traveling in impressive numbers, trips they decided not to take because of hassles in the air travel system cost the economy more than $35 billion in 2013. The user fee structure that funds capital projects at major airports has not been indexed for inflation since 2000; if that were corrected, airports could modernize the World War II-era air traffic control system and expand terminal space, thus improving prices and service for customers because new carriers could enter markets and compete with the big three airlines.

We should also encourage the American workforce to use their time off. In 2013, Americans left 429 million days unused (the least amount of vacation in nearly 40 years) and forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits. If workers took just one more day off each year, travel would generate an extra $73 billion annually for the economy.

Travel is making a difference on our communities and lives every day. Take time to celebrate travel this week and see how you can help make this industry even stronger for America’s businesses, workforce and general state of mind.