Visitor Spending Grew In ’08

Airport terminal

A study released this week by the Washington State Department of Commerce shows that visitors to Yakima County spent a record $345 million dollars in 2008, up 5.5% over 2007.

“Given that the economy started to decline at the end of 2008, we are pleased to see that overall the local tourism industry did well last year,” said John Cooper, President and CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The growth in travel spending in Yakima County was two percent greater than the statewide level of growth (3.5%). According to the report, tourism is a $15.4 billion industry in Washington employing nearly 151,000 people. The study documents that there are 3,410 people employed in travel and tourism in Yakima County and that visitors generated more than $25.3 million in local and state taxes.

Cooper says these figures validate that tourism is a positive economic force for the community. “Visitors produce far more tax revenues than the services they require. They provide significant revenues for the public services enjoyed by our citizens while supporting a range of local businesses.”

While 2008 ended on a positive note, Cooper anticipates that final figures for 2009 will show a modest level of decline due to the economy. “We’ll probably see single digit declines by year end, ” he stated.  “That’s a lot better than many other destinations.”

A breakdown of 2008 expenditures shows that tourists to Yakima County spent:

  • $123.7 million on ground transportation & fuel
  • $79.4 million on food and beverages
  • $42.6 million on lodging
  • $42.2 million on retail sales
  • $38.9 million on entertainment, arts & recreation
  • $17.1 million on food stores
  • $700,000 on air transportation (local residents)
  • $400,000 on air transportation (visitor related)

Dean Runyan Associates of Portland conducted the Washington State County Travel Impacts Study for the state.

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