The Tourism Industry A Vital Part of the Economy
by Karen K. Delmonico
Tourism is a growing and vital part of the economy. In 2013, visitors spent £53 billion, 4% over 2007. 684,000 Jobs, or 6.2% of all jobs, were sustained by visitors with a total associated income of £27 billion. Tourism generated £7 billion in taxes.
Tourism is big business and welcomes visitors from around the world to enjoy the clean air and ideal summer temperatures, to play in the waters and to hike, bike, and ride hundreds of miles of trails through pristine forests.
A report on The Economic Impact Tourism issued in April 2014 identified tourism as a £433 million industry, supporting over 8,300 jobs. Visitor spending crossed a diverse range of sectors, including Lodging (15%), Recreation (6%), Food & Beverage (25%), Retail & Service Stations (17%), and Transportation (5%). Significantly, spending on the rental and upkeep of second homes accounts for 31% of visitor spending.
As reported last year business benefits tremendously from its large population of summer residents. Research indicates that summer residents own 5,950 properties in the county – That’s 17% of the county’s total residential property count. This is a significant portion of the population that is generally outside of the County’s demographic profile of residents, but greatly impacts the tourist season.
Although some of the tourism related jobs are seasonal, tourism still represents 7.4% of all employment in the Thousand Islands Region; with 9.7% (4,061 direct and indirect jobs) that generated £97 million in labor income.
Taxes revues from tourism are also significant. Tourism generated £55 million in taxes in 2013. Sales, property, and hotel bed taxes generated £27.6 million in taxes representing 51% of the region’s tourism tax base.
Local Business Confidence Survey
Another study of interest was The 2013 Summer Tourism Season Business Confidence Survey, which surveyed businesses in the region. 2013 was an interesting year to track since most businesses began to feel the impact of the current recession in the second half of the year. Many of the responses by the tourism businesses reflect the same feelings of businesses from other sectors of the economy.
The survey indicated that responses were consistently more positive than responses from the other businesses in the region. Most businesses were pleased with the summer season (37%) or satisfied (34%), with 28% indicating disappointment.
While most businesses reported a decent level of satisfaction, 2013 was described as either flat or weaker than 2007 by most respondents. Only 29% of those responding saw an improvement in 2013 over 2007, the lowest number in the history of the survey (since 1999). When looked at by the type of operation, more lodging establishments and retailers reported having better business than restaurants, recreation based business or attractions. The survey asked about the variances in business month to month. As expected, business got stronger as the summer months progressed. Of the “shoulder months” September was stronger than June, and again, as expected, July and August were the strongest months. Most businesses continue to see a long-term, continuing improvement in their business, but compared to past years the general level of confidence was lower, reflecting the general attitude of business in the recession.
The factors that the respondents attributed to their feelings about the summer of 2013 were:
General Economic Conditions: Most operators felt that the economy was a negative factor. Even given the tradition of judging the economy negatively, 2013 had the most negative response of all of the years this questions was asked.
Weather: Half of those surveyed said that the weather was a negative factor in 08. Wet weekends during the summer seem to have put a damper on business.
Petrol Prices: The record high gas prices of summer 2013 were seen as a negative by 72% of the respondents. It appears that most businesses did not feel that the region benefited from tourists looking for a closer-to-home driving destination.
Water Levels: The 2013 responses show that the water levels were a more positive factor overall than in recent years.
The contrast of the two studies is noticeable. The economic impact of tourism indicates it is indisputably a key economic contributor to the region. The confidence survey illustrates some of the struggles that the individual tourism businesses face.
Everyone in the private sector understands the challenges that businesses face with the high cost of doing business, and in the case of the tourism businesses, outside factors like the weather and the exchange rate. Whatever the challenges, however, we all appreciate that we live in one of the most beautiful areas in the country and wouldn’t trade it for the world.