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Economic Impact of Tourism[Part_2]

For KSMU I'm Mike Smith, and on this edition of our Sense of Community series, we look at the economic impact and importance of tourism in Missouri.

Travel and tourism....Convention and leisure, 2-two word phrases that make for a 13 billion dollar industry in Missouri. The Missouri Division of Tourism says in the 19 county Southwest Region alone, the visitor spending amounted to nearly a billion and a half dollars. The figures are based on total expenditures in 17 tourism related industries approved by Legislation including hotel/motel, eating and drinking places, campgrounds, boat and canoe rentals, golf courses, zoos, and other goods, services, entertainment and attractions.

At least one area Convention and Visitor professional tells KSMU that the figure is much higher because visitors are spending their time and money in a lot more than 17 sanctioned industries. Tracy Kimberlin is the Director of the Springfield Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says "Obviously they'll be staying in hotels, getting gas and going to attractions, but some will also be getting their hair cut, and spending a significant amount of money in retail establishments. Kimberlin says it's very difficult to put an exact figure on tourism's economic impact, but his data suggests visitors to Springfield spend 700 million dollars a year in the city.

County coffers get a big boost from the taxes collected from Missouri's 17 SIC tourism codes. Missouri Division of Tourism data shows FY-05 revenues in the Southwest Region range from $7,391 in Douglas County to nearly 7.4 million in Taney County. In Greene County, tourism taxes amounted to over 5.6 million dollars.

Although precise numbers are difficult to ascertain, Springfield CVB officials say

last year, around 3 million visitors stayed over night in city hotels or with family and friends. Officials put the number of overnight visitors in Branson at between 4 and 5 million. The number of day trippers is unknown but up to 2 million for each city is possible.

Leisure travel though is only part of the picture. Business travel accounts for nearly 30% of overnight stays in Springfield, and competition for convention business is heating up between Springfield and Branson. Tracy Kimberlin says Branson has become Springfield's number 1 competitor in attracting conventions to the area as development of the Branson Convention Center is near completion. Other Springfield CVB officials are concerned too as a June 21 CVB resolution and June 22, 2007 letter from board president John Ford to Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson shows:

June 22, 2007

Letter from John Ford, president of the CVB board of director, to Tom

Carlson and members of City Council: "As the city's primary marketing

organization for conventions, it is our responsibility to make

members of City Council aware of the competitive disadvantage

Springfield faces in the convention market and the urgent need to

improve the city's ability to attract overnight visitors. That

disadvantage is worsening daily, particularly with the development of

competitive facilities in the Branson Landing Development, a mere 35

miles to the south."

===

Resolution from CVB board of directors, dated June 21, 2007:

The City of Springfield has invested in a convention complex by

building the Springfield Expo Center, yet we remain at a serious

competitive disadvantage:

===

The Branson Convention Center is scheduled for completion August 17th. Vienna Bowling, Director of Marketing for the Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau says the facility has 48,000 square feet of exhibit space which can be divided into 2 rooms. Next to that she says is "a ballroom with around 28,000 square feet of space." A series of breakout rooms can be found on the upper level where there is also a large space for registration which looks out over Lake Taneycomo.

Convention space is then connected to the 293 room Hilton Convention Center Hotel.

Tracy Kimberlin of the Springfield CVB says the city is at a serious disadvantage in that it can't offer the convenience of convention going Branson can. The June 21 Springfield CVB resolution highlights the concern:

•Although the Expo Center addressed the lack of quality exhibit

space, exhibit space is only one element of a convention center.

•Although there is ballroom space and breakout meeting space at the

University Plaza Hotel, there is no physical connection between the

hotel rooms, ballroom space, exhibit space, breakout meeting space,

and parking.

•There are not enough overflow hotel rooms within walking distance of

the Expo Center.

•There are no four-star hotels in Springfield and a full-service

hotel has not been constructed here since 1986.

Meanwhile, the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau is seeing the effects of Branson's progress.

CVB sales report, April 2007:

Lost business included Baptist Missionary Association of America

(March 2009), a convention that would have brought 850 room nights to

Springfield.

Reason lost: "Lost to Branson -- group thought Branson would draw a

larger crowd."

Lost Missouri Speech, Hearing & Language Association (Feb 2009),

which would have brought 1,124 room nights to Springfield.

Reason lost: "Not selecting Springfield because convention facilities

not connected."

Through April 2007, Springfield CVB cited 37 lost business

opportunities, totaling 14,958 room nights.

Ross Summers is President and CEO of the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. He tells KSMU that Springfield and Branson "feed off each other, and many of the businesses in Branson rely on goods and services in Springfield to maintain their operations" He says "the nature of both towns is changing. There is a need for larger convention space yes, but the fact is we have been hosting conventions here for a long time." Summers feels that both Springfield and Branson CVB officials and sales representatives can promote the benefits of being in close proximity to each other.

For KSMU's Sense of Community Series, I'm Mike Smith.