Visitors to Fresno County ended up spending more than $1.1 billion at hotels, restaurants, stores and gas stations during 2015. That was the lion’s share of the $1.4 billion in spending generated by the travel and tourism industries in the county last year, and the highest it’s been in the past two decades.
The spending estimates were part of a report released by Visit California, the state’s tourism promotion agency. Statewide, the agency said tourism spending topped $122 billion in 2015. That includes about $111.9 billion shelled out by out-of-state visitors.
California is already the biggest tourism economy in the U.S., even bigger than some countries.
Caroline Beteta, Visit California president/CEO
“This was the sixth consecutive record-breaking year for California tourism,” said Carline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “California is already the biggest tourism economy in the U.S., even bigger than some countries.”
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Travel and tourism spending increased in Madera County as well, but fell in Kings and Tulare counties compared with 2014. Total spending generated by travel in Madera County reached nearly $274 million, driven largely by mountain communities in the Sierra Nevada.
Across the four-county region, spending amounted to about $2.28 billion.
“Tourism is a very important economic driver in Madera County, especially in the eastern part of the county,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite Madera County. “Virtually every local business in the small towns of Oakhurst, Bass Lake, Fish Camp and Coarsegold rely on tourism for their business success.”
$1.4 billion2015 tourism/travel spending in Fresno County
14,130Tourism/travel-generated jobs in Fresno County
$111.2 millionState, local tax revenue from travel/tourism in Fresno County
Travel and tourism effects are not limited to the dollars spent by travelers. Those dollars supported more than 24,000 jobs across the Valley that are attributable to travel-generated spending, the Visit California report estimated. Additionally, about $185 million in state and local taxes, including sales taxes and transient-occupancy taxes, were realized in the region.
The largest single category of spending by visitors to Fresno County last year was in restaurants and other food-service businesses, at $296 million. That was followed by:
▪ Ground transportation and gasoline, $232 million.
▪ Accommodations, $198 million.
▪ Retail sales, $189 million.
▪ Arts, entertainment and recreation, $143 million
▪ Food stores, $53 million.
▪ Visitor air transportation, $47 million.
Fresno County ranked 15th among California’s 58 counties in total travel/tourism dollars. The top five were Los Angeles County, at nearly $25.9 billion; San Diego County, $15.4 billion; San Francisco County, $14.3 billion; Orange County, $11.3 billion; and Riverside County, $7.4 billion.
The economics of tourism
Visit California, the state’s tourism promotion agency, issued its report of the estimated economic effects of the travel and tourism industries on California and each of its 58 counties. Here are the figures for the central San Joaquin Valley:
Tax revenue (state & local)
Source: Visit California / Dean Runyan Associates