Tourism’s Economic Benefit and Travel Spending in Lewis County
For Immediate Release
Contact: Mary Kay Nelson Executive Director, Visit Rainier
360-748-4514 Office and Cell
April 2, 2013, Chehalis, WA – National Parks continue to be important, even critical, economic engines for local communities with visitors generating $30.1 Billion in economic activity, and supporting 252,000 jobs nationwide in 2011. More than a third of that spending went directly into communities within 60 miles of a park. In the spending analysis just released by Michigan State University, it was noted that for every $1 invested by American taxpayers on their parks, $10 is returned to their communities.
A recent report released for the National Park Service shows that just over one million visitors to Mt. Rainier National Park spent $33 Million in 2011 in the gateway communities around the park. This spending supported approximately 450 jobs in the local area including just over 100 permanent jobs and up to 200 seasonal staff who work for the National Park Service and an additional 450 jobs through commercial concession services according to Tracy Swartout, Deputy Superintendent at Mt Rainier NP.
Visitor spending supports jobs in lodging, food and beverage, entertainment, transportation and retail and drives revenue in the way of taxes in local and state. At Mt. Rainier National Park attendance increased slightly from 1,038,229 in 2011 to 1,049,178 in 2012. With anticipated impact due to budget constraints in 2013, the visitation numbers are likely to decline this year.
Tourism is a major industry in Washington State. According to the Gross Domestic Product produced, tourism ranks 4th as an export industry following software, aerospace and agriculture /food. Direct visitor spending increased 4.4% in 2012 over 2011. Rural areas are more dependent on tourism than urban areas. Travel spending generates 15% of the local sales tax and hotel motel taxes in eight non-urban counties in Washington State.
A statewide report by Dean Runyan Associates for 2012 reports that travel spending in Lewis County decreased from $178 Million in 2011 to $175.6 Million in 2012. Combined local and state tax receipts also dropped from $11,832 to $11,656 for a -1.5% change. On a brighter note, travel related employment increased from 2180 jobs in 2011 to 2210 jobs in 2012.
Mary Kay Nelson, Executive Director of Visit Rainier, the destination marketing organization for Mt. Rainier area, stated while East Lewis County is positively impacted by the National Park, the I-5 corridor through Chehalis and Centralia could benefit by launching a marketing program to attract leisure as well as business travel. Nelson noted that with the completion of the Lewis County Sports Complex and new development at Centralia Station, and several other local projects such as the Discover, Childrens’ Museum and the renovation of the Chehalis swimming pool and Fox Theater, the Chehalis-Centralia area is poised to compete favorably for a share of the visitor market share in the region. There is much work to be done to create a cohesive and collaborative marketing program for all of Lewis County. She believes an investment can produce a good return on that investment if it is done successfully. An ad hoc group has been meeting monthly for nearly a year to determine what next steps need to be taken to create a synergistic marketing effort. Contact Nelson or the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber for more details.