Thanks to people from around the globe with the desire to visit California, including the tourist attraction icons such as Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and China Town, Big Sur, San Simion’s Hearst Castle, Napa Valley, San Diego’s Sea World, Disneyland, and yes, even Death Valley, spending by travelers and the jobs it takes to serve them, increased in 2015 for the sixth consecutive year.
In a Dean Runyan and Associates report released Monday, total direct travel spending in California was $122.5 billion last year (3.4% increase over 2014), while the industry accounted for 1 million jobs in the state (3.7% increase from 2014).
Travel spending in the Golden state last year is almost identical to the state’s entire 2016-17 budget ($122.6 billion).
The growth is the most sustained in the industry over the past two decades, although much of this growth reflects recovery from the 2007-09 recession.
The travel industry in California is a vital part of state and county economies. The industry is represented primarily by retail and service firms, including lodging establishments, restaurants, retail stores, gasoline service stations, car rentals, and other types of businesses that sell their products and services to travelers.
The money that visitors spend on various goods and services while in California produces business receipts at these firms, which in turn employ California residents and pay their wages and salaries.
The report was done for non-profit Visit California, the tourism marketing arm for the state, and the Governor’s Office of Business Development.
County benefits by $264 million
Direct travel spending for Madera County for 2015 was $274 million, a 1.7% increase over 2014.
In 2015, 3,290 people were employed in the county, with a payroll of $91.9 million.
County tourism officials have estimated that between 70% and about 80% of the spending and jobs due to tourism is in Eastern Madera County.
Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite/Madera County, the tourism marketing arm for the county, said outside of agriculture, the travel industry is the largest economic driver in the county.
“Madera County has an abundance of attractions, beautiful landscapes, lakes, museums and art which is everything needed to attract visitors all year long ... no wonder we are the most traveled gateway to Yosemite,” Salisbury said.
Madera County’s neighbor to the north, Mariposa County, received $473.7 million in visitor spending, which helped support 4,800 jobs and a payroll of $117.3 million in 2015.
The leading county in the state for travel spending is Los Angeles, at $25.88 billion, supporting more than 195,900 jobs with a payroll of $9.84 billion.
The report includes the economic benefits of leading tourism sectors such as hotels, rental cars, and retail as well as the statewide and county-by-county benefits. Out of California’s 58 counties, 51 saw an increase in direct travel spending compared to 2014.
Visitor arrivals on domestic flights (34.4 million in 2015) increased by 5.4%. Overseas arrivals at Los Angeles and San Francisco ports of entry were more than six million, a 13.9% increase for 2015.
“The power of tourism to improve quality of life in California is evident from this report,” said Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta. “The ripple effect from a sixth consecutive year record year of tourism is driving economic development and community benefits across the state.”
An analysis of data compiled by Dodge Market Research report found that from 2006 to 2015 new building and renovation projects in California related to tourism reached $20 billion, with an average of $2 billion in infrastructure investments per year.
This includes airport modernizations, new dining, entertainment and retail outlets, and other cultural and civic amenities that benefit visitors and residents alike.