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The return on tourism

Most people know tourism is big business in New York. But that fact bears repeating, and spelling out in detail.

The latest annual report on the economic impact in New York was released a year ago by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. It showed that traveler spending reached a record level of more than $57 billion in 2012; total tourism-related spending hit $92 billion.

Tourism, the researchers found, is New York’s fifth-largest industry. It supports more than 714,000 jobs and produces $29 billion in total income. For government, it meant $3.1 billion in state taxes and $4.1 billion in local taxes during 2012.

To some who have not visited the state, New York means the Big Apple. But the Oxford Economics study documented the important role tourism plays in Upstate New York as well. In the 14-county Finger Lakes region, stretching from Rochester to Syracuse and south to Ithaca, traveler spending in 2012 totaled $2.8 billion and supported nearly 58,000 jobs—more than one-third in Monroe County alone.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited some of these statistics at this month’s New York State Tourism Summit in Albany, where he committed to spending nearly $60 million to grow the state’s tourism industry. That’s up from $19 million spent on tourism funding last year.

President Barack Obama, who last week visited Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame, also has made tourism development part of his economic recovery strategy for the nation. A new administration report shows that growth in spending by international visitors created some 175,000 U.S. jobs over the past five years.

Some might contend that government should not spend more money on something that seems to be doing so well. But the counter-argument—that more funding will generate even greater returns—is persuasive.

What’s more, tourism is a competitive business. International travelers are targeted by marketers worldwide, and standing still likely means falling behind.

The job is not for government alone, of course. This region has more than a dozen tourism agencies, and they must do all they can to promote the area cooperatively.

The potential is there; we should capitalize on it.

5/30/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

One comment

  1. Perhaps the numbers regarding the economic impact of tourism could use a bit more examination. It appears that the primary beneficiaries of tourism are governments and business owners. Tourism employees, those who pour the wine, clean the rooms, and prepare the dinners, do not receive much of a share of this revenue.

    The 2010 average annual wage for Accomodation and Food Service employees in Yates County was $13,796, or $6.72 an hour on a full-time basis. Many tourism employees are seasonal or part-time and employee benefits are non-existent. The only off-season income for many is Unemployment Insurance of less than $200 per week.

    By comparison the average Government worker here receives $55,329 in annual salary and benefits ($26.58 per hour).

    If we truly were interested in the economic development of our citizens and communities we might focus less on tourism and more on making our region competitive for manufacturing, technical, and professional organizations.

    We might also want to do some more work to understand why the government worker earns 4 times what the tourism worker earns. In our small town the pay and benefits for a highway department laborer is $69,300 annually. Thai is nice work if you can get it.

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