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For many Marylanders, vacation isn’t on their calendars

Tourism officials are mounting campaigns hoping to change that

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A study released last week estimated that 58 percent of Marylanders leave some of their vacation time unused, foregoing a total of 17.8 million vacation days unused in 2016. (Illustration by Maximilian Franz)

Marylanders aren’t using all of their vacation time, and tourism and business officials are taking notice.

According to a study released last week by Project: Time Off, of the U.S. Travel Association, 58 percent of Marylanders leave some of their vacation time unused, compared to 54 percent nationally. The state ranks 17th worst in the country.

Marylanders left 17.8 million vacation days unused in 2016, which correlates to $1.8 billion in direct spending potential for the state.

The top reason for Maryland workers opted out of using all of their vacation days was in line with the top barrier for most Americans. 37 percent of Maryland workers said coming back to a mountain of work was their biggest detractor.

Other top reasons in the state include fears of being seen as replaceable and wanting to demonstrate dedication. Maryland workers also cited concerns that no one else could perform their job and expressed that time off is harder with seniority, said Brittany Kemp, the communications coordinator for Project: Time Off.

Tourism officials in Ocean City have picked up on this trend, and are working to combat this workplace culture through an advertising campaign.

“About two years ago our ad agency had come across similar stats” said Melanie Pursel, the executive director of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. “They came up with this interesting campaign were vacation days are personified, like ‘I was used for an oil change,’ and it’s been really successful.”

The city saw more traffic on its web pages from June 2015 to June 2016, including a 16 percent increase in visitors to its website and a 21 percent increase in Twitter followers. There was also a 2.8 percent increase in sales tax revenue, according to Ocean City Tourism Metrics Reports.

Maryland employers expressed mixed opinions on the matter.

Cailey Locklair Tolle, the president of the Maryland Retailers Association, said she isn’t surprised by the results. In the retail industry, many employees work part-time, she said, and have the ability to alter their schedules or swap shifts in order to take short periods of leave, rendering vacation days unnecessary for them.

Retailers such as Giant Foods and Walmart are among the top ten employers in the state.

Locklair Tolle said she suspects that taking vacations could be prohibitively costly for the state’s workers. Ultimately, she said, employers shouldn’t push employees to use vacation time.

“I don’t think that it’s an employer’s place to mandate what employees do in their personal time,” she said. “Taking vacation can be really expensive too, and many people would rather work than take vacation and then spend that money on things they need.”

Another one of Maryland’s largest employers, Baltimore Gas & Electric, urged employees to use up their vacation time.

“We offer competitive vacation plans and encourage employees to use their vacation time,” BGE spokesman Justin Mulcahy said. “Ultimately our customers are better served and employees are more productive when they use their  time away from work and return well-rested.”

MedStar Health, the second largest Maryland employer, echoed this sentiment.

“We encourage all of our associates to take the time that they need to refresh, relax and spend time with their families,” MedStar spokeswoman Erin Cunningham said.


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