So you think someone visiting the Kansas City region is surely here to see the city’s center, eh? After all, that’s where are stellar cultural attractions tend to be clustered, it’s where centers of finance and commerce are huddled together, it’s where the population generates the critical mass needed to attract eclectic shops, hard-to-find services or spectacular restaurants. Right?
Well, if you think that, you don’t know the half of it. Quite literally: Jackson County, Mo., accounted for just less than half the tourism spend in the KC area in 2014, the last full year of data crunched by a pair of companies that leave and breathe those decimal points and dollar signs, Tourism Economics and Longwoods International.
The two collaborate every other year to measure the economic impact of tourism and parse the habits—Business? Pleasure? Both?—of people who make it to the heart of the metro area each year, the five core counties of Jackson, Clay and Platte on the Missouri side, and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas.
And despite being the region’s beating heart, Jackson County attracted less than half that spending—48 percent—while adjoining Johnson County garnered 22 percent.
For the year, this region drew 24 million visitors, nearly half a million every week. On average, though, they weren’t particularly big spenders—their per-visitor outlay came to just $129, but given the volume, that was still enough to yield $3.1 billion in tourism-related commerce, the assessment said. But consider this: those numbers don’t merely reflect nickel-biting sentiments; they demonstrate the huge value built into this region’s pricing structures for accommodations, attractions, dining options and more.
As a community, the study showed that we are what we’ve always said we were: A terrific bargain.
Peeling the onion a bit further, the research found that:
• Hotels and motels accounted for about 27 percent of that spending, or $845 million. That was up a healthy $73 million from the previous study period, an increase of nearly 9.5 percent.
• After taking into account the economic-
activity multiplier effect, the total outlay by visitors produced $5.1 billion in economic activity within the region, a record level.
• Jobs generated by companies with ties to tourism came to slightly more than 46,000, another record. At 5.2 percent of overall employment, that means tourism-related concerns produced one job out of every 19 across the region.
• And the taxes levied directly on tourism or raised through its activities yielded $357 million in state and local taxes. Spread that out over the number of properties in the region, and the average household realized a $525 savings on taxes paid by someone from out of town.
The study also found that about half the visitors were here for the short terms, with about half coming in just for day trips. Among the half that produced overnight visits, 80 percent were drawn here not for business reasons, but for leisure.
“Kansas City has accelerated the improvement of new products that enhance the resident and visitor experience — from our walkable convention district to the arts and culture scene to the new streetcar” coming on-line, said Ronnie Burt, CEO of Visit KC, in assessing the study’s findings. “We are excited about the future and will continue to build upon this wonderful momentum.”
And where did all those visitors come from? Missouri accounted for 21 percent of them, just north of the 20 percent share from Kansas. Next up were Texas and Nebraska, at6 percent each, while California, Illinois and Iowa accounted for 5 percent each.
Some came for business, some for family, but for the true tourist—as well as the staycationer— there was plenty to see and do.
Barbecue (too many joints to count) jazz (highlighted by the American Jazz Museum, as well as nightspots in town), college basketball (year-round through the College Basketball Experience and Hall of Fame, but especially during March Madness), and, of course, the championship-caliber play of the Kansas City Royals last year and the Chiefs NFL-record winning streak were all terrific reasons to hang out in Kansas City for a day, a weekend or a week-long break.
Ditto a world-class performing arts center and one of the top tourism draws every year, the Kansas City Zoo, which continues to expand and add new attractions.