Good news, bad news. Bad news first – summer is over (sob, sob). Good news – summer is huge for tourism. Why is that good news for the County? Pierce County as well as our cities and town consider tourism as part of economic development. We love it when people come to our area to see our mountain (yes, Mt. Rainier is our mountain), our water, our trails, and our museums, and of course, our world class golf course.
Tourism is a great industry because it gives to the economy. What we like is when people come here and spend their money. And we have seen much growth in this area. According to “Pierce County Travel Impacts,” a report compiled by Dean Runyan Associates commissioned by Travel Tacoma & Pierce County, the area’s official destination marketing organization, travel spending1 reached $1.09 billion in Pierce County in 2015, an annual increase of 3.9 percent, breaking the record set in 2014. Visitor spending2 marked its first billion-dollar year, reaching $1.01 billion, an annual increase of 6.3 percent.
Where do the visitors spend their money? Our Tourism industry is very diverse. Revenue is generated from hotels, campgrounds, and vacation homes. People eat in our restaurants, drink our micro brews and wine, and shop in our grocery and retail stores. They go to our theatres, our museums and our parks. They rent cars or other vehicles and take transit.
It is not just that people are spending more. We are also seeing an increase in the numbers of people visiting. In 2015 Pierce County welcomed 5,942,000 visitors, a 7 percent increase from 2014. Of that, 3,008,000 were overnight visitors, an increase of 2.1 percent from 2014. Most stayed for multiple days.
What does this means for the economy? Tourism as an industry is one of our major employers, supporting 11,080 local jobs another increase of 1.6 percent from 2014. Local tax revenue generated from lodging and sales taxes paid by visitors to the county and local jurisdictions, property tax payments and local sales tax payments attributable to the travel industry income of employees and businesses was approximately $112.8, up from $103.9 in 2014.
This story emphasizes the importance of hosting events in our community. We just had an announcement from the United States Golf Association that Chambers Bay Golf Course will be the host for the 2019 “Four Ball” Amateur tournament. Although not as big as the Open, we can expect to bring more out of state visitors to our County. The Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center is another venue that brings out of town people here and we are seeing more bookings for conventions each year. Even events that may not result in overnight stays are a part of tourism. The Puyallup Fair is a great example. People pay to enter the fair, pay for parking, buy food and sometimes a product or two, go on rides, and sometimes go to shows. In other words their money stays right here is Pierce County!
Much of the success we have seen is due to an improved marketing campaign by the Travel Tacoma & Pierce County organization. But you can help by talking about all the great assets we have. My husband and I were recently in Whistler and struck up conversations with a number of people about Pierce County. We do this all the time. If someone mentions that they like golf, we tell them about Chambers. If they like hiking, we tell them about Mt. Rainier. If they like boating, we tell them about our bays and lakes. If they like cars we tell them about LeMay Car Museum. If they like snowboarding, we tell them about Crystal. We can always find something for everybody. You can do the same. Help sell us. After all, they don’t call it the Great Northwest for no reason. And Pierce County is the best of the best.
Connie Ladenburg is a member of the Pierce County Council.