The return on tourism

By  - 5/30/2014

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