After record tourism, Missouri boosts funding for 2017

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COLUMBIA - Gov. Jay Nixon announced recently visitors to the state and tourism spending are at an all-time high for fiscal year 2016.  

According to a news release, the FY16 annual impact report by Tourism Economics, a division of Oxford Economics, showed Missouri had 41.7 million visitors, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous record of 40.4 million in Fiscal Year 2015.

"Each year, the Missouri Division of Tourism releases the information about the number of visitors to our state and also the economic impact that they have," Megan McConachie, the strategic communications manager of Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said.

Based on the report, the tourism industry had a $16.5 billion economic impact on Missouri in FY16, a increase from the previous fiscal year of $15.9 billion. During Nixon's administration, tourism's total economic impact in Missouri state has increased by 34 percent. 

McConachie said she's glad to see the number of tourists is going up especially in Columbia. 

"Tourism is definitely growing in Columbia," McConachie said. "We measure a lot of our hotel tax revenues, those continue to go up; and all of our festivals and events, those keep seeing an increased attendance; and we're also seeing an increase of meetings, conventions, leisure travelers. So all of our tourism in Columbia is going up."

McConachie said those revenues from tourism will help local businesses and jobs as well as people's quality of life. 

Communications Manager of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau Katherine Reed wrote in an email  that the city had more than 594,280 visitors in 2016 in Jefferson City, which is over 63,000 more than visited in 2015 and double the amount that visited in 2014. 

"I think the strengthening economy as well as low gas prices definitely play a part in the amount of visitation to Jefferson City," Reed wrote in the email. "We are a 'drive to' city, and these factors influence our visitors' decision to plan a trip to our community."

Looking at the big picture in Missouri, Reed said she believes the Missouri Division of Tourism focused much of its marketing efforts this year on the outdoors, which helped increase visitation to the many state parks and outdoor attractions including the Katy Trail.

"Sports tourism is also continuing to grow with new state-of-the art facilities popping in several cities, as well as the film industry taking off with productions such as Gone Girl filmed in Cape Girardeau," Reed wrote in the email. 

According to a news release, under Nixon’s administration, the Missouri Division of Tourism has awarded $25.6 million dollars in matching grants to local destination marketing organizations. The FY17 budget follows the governor’s recommendation to include an additional $3 million to expand the Division of Tourism’s marketing efforts to bring more visitors to Missouri. 

"We just always continue to try to find out what's new, so that we can make sure that we're promoting that to our potential visitors," McConachie said.