This month the U.S. Travel Association is asking Americans to plan their vacation days for the rest of the year as part of a national observance — and some Colorado Springs businesses have already marked their calendars.

U.S. Travel’s initiative called Project: Time Off will host National Plan for Vacation Day Jan. 31, which encourages employees nationwide to select their vacation dates for the year and get in their request forms so they use their paid time off in 2017.

Unused paid leave contributes to employee burnout and balance sheet liabilities that directly affect companies’ bottom line, according to Project: Time-Off’s website. While 97 percent of companies offer paid time off, few companies fully utilize the benefit.

 And that’s why staff at The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau will gather Jan. 31 — to focus on the importance of time off and communicate with each other on dates they will be away from the office.

“We’re participating as an organization by having staff bring their lunch, calendars and time off request forms to plan for their days off,” said Chelsy Offutt, director of communications for the CVB. “At the CVB we have 18 full-time staff members and have encouraged our partners, as well as travelers and the community to participate and plan for their days off.”

Roughly 55 percent of Americans don’t use all earned vacation, leading to 658 million unused vacation days a year, according to the site. And research conducted for the call to action shows planners take more vacation and are happier than non-planners.

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Paid vacation time is crucial to employee recruitment, retention, engagement and performance, however, vacation stigmas keep workers at the office instead of using time off, according to Project: Time Off.

“The solution for our no-vacation nation is simple,” Doug Price, president and CEO of the CVB, said in a news release. “With a new year, there’s no better time to sit down, plan your vacation days out and give yourself something to look forward to in the coming year.”

Business owner Lindsey Aparicio said she only sees the initiative as a benefit for employees and employers.

“It’s a great opportunity for business owners and employees to get on the same page and allows an employer to plan ahead, arrange for coverage,” she said.

In 2010, Aparicio launched her business called The Goat Cheese Lady in Colorado Springs with her husband, Herbert. Two years later, they moved the business 45 miles south to Penrose to expand their farm and build a creamery.

With the time and work that goes into running her business, Aparicio said she will definitely participate in the observance.

“My husband and two boys are going to sit down and plan our vacation days so that we’re able to visit Great Wolf Lodge,” she said. “What will also be great about [National Plan for Vacation Day] is that it will allow us to focus on doing something fun.”

To learn more on National Plan for Vacation Day, visit http://www.projecttimeoff.com/planforvacation.