Bay Area tourism drives travel spending in state
The Bay Area is California’s No. 1 travel hot spot and captures a rising share of tourism dollars in the Golden State, but travel spending statewide could slow during 2017, experts said Thursday.
Travelers spent $34.5 billion in the Bay Area during 2016, which accounted for more than a fourth of the $126 billion tourists spent statewide last year, according to a report Thursday from Visit California, a non-profit that tracks travel statewide.
The spending in the Bay Area and state underscores the importance of the travel industry, Visit California said in the annual study of the state’s tourism sector. Tourists underpin an array of local and state services, roads and even libraries.
“The California travel industry contributes more tax revenue to state and local governments than would be expected based on the size of the industry,” the report stated. “Whereas the gross domestic product and employee earnings represent about 2.5 percent of the state economy, the travel industry generated 4.3 percent of tax revenue in the 2016 fiscal year.”
The Bay Area is the top travel destination in California, which in turn, is the No. 1 destination in the United States, reported Visit California.
During 2016, the amount of travel spending in the Bay Area rose 3.4 percent from the year before, while statewide spending rose 3.1 percent. The High Sierra had the sharpest increase in travel spending, with a 7 percent jump. The other areas that outpaced the Bay Area in the rate of increase for travel spending were Los Angeles County, up 3.8 percent; and the North Coast, up 3.7 percent.
Nevertheless, the $34.5 billion spent in the Bay Area was far ahead of all other areas. Los Angeles County, the No. 2 area, generated $26.86 billion in travel spending. San Diego County captured $15.8 billion from travel spending, while Orange County grabbed $11.63 billion.
During 2016, the Bay Area had 256,900 travel-generated jobs, up 3.5 percent from the year before and representing 23.4 percent of the 1.06 million travel-related jobs in California, the study found.
About 75 percent of the travel dollars spent in California come from residents of the Golden State, according to Caroline Beteta, president of Visit California. Another 18 percent was spent by travelers from the other 49 states. International travelers accounted for 7 percent of the tourism spending in the state, Beteta estimated.
Some hazards could imperil the California travel industry.
“We anticipate that the strengthening of the U.S. dollar will cause some softening in tourism in California,” Beteta said during a conference call to discuss the results of the survey.
Visit California predicted that travel spending will grow about 2 percent during 2017 — significantly below the roughly 3 percent growth levels of recent years.
“Growth is moderating,” Beteta said. “But when you are talking about $126 billion in spending, that’s a tremendous amount.”