Tourism might seem like a fun business where we breezily celebrate Boise’s charm. But this industry, which employs thousands of Idahoans, is Idaho’s third-largest after agriculture and technology.
This year, Idaho had much to celebrate in the tourism industry — especially at the close of National Travel and Tourism Week, May 1-7. In Boise, the energy is tangible, with important additions to our capacity to welcome visitors. This year we welcome the phenomenon of JUMP, the Boise Centre’s 36,000 square-foot expansion, four new hotels adding a cumulative 540 rooms to Boise, and new air service including a nonstop flight to Dallas that begins June 2.
Celebrating tourists might not come easily — we inevitably hear that visitors add to traffic or take reservation spots at favorite restaurants. But it’s important to remember that visitors import economic value to our home. And thanks to the collective efforts of our community, visitors are coming to Boise like never before.
In 2015, Idaho logged 33 million person trips — an increase of 7.6 percent over 2013, the most recent year for such reporting. Of those trips, 40 percent were overnight trips, which generated $1.7 billion in spending. That’s an 18.5 percent increase from 2013, according to Longwoods Travel USA, which reports on such trends for the Idaho Department of Commerce.
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In 2015, 1.4 million people arrived at the Boise airport. Whether by plane or car, travelers to the Boise area reserved 1.5 million overnight hotel stays.
The boosts that overnight visits bring to the Idaho economy don’t just rest with hotels, restaurants, attractions and convention space. Guests spend their time with businesses such as boutiques, florists, dry cleaners, grocery stores, banks, salons and rental companies.
Idaho’s $3.4 billion tourism industry employs more than 26,000 Idahoans and generates almost $500 million in local, state and federal tax revenues, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
We can’t afford to take that economic benefit lightly.
Boise has become a destination, and the national media have taken notice. Whether it’s Forbes, The Seattle Times or Outside Magazine, our home is getting recognized for its broad-based appeal. Any resident, new or old, knows why: Our community entices visitors with its festivals, outdoor recreational opportunities and unique cultural flavor.
As summer opens in Idaho, we’ll once again welcome visitors to Boise, coming to share in sporting and cultural events alike. The U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Tournament, the Twilight Criterium and Albertsons Boise Open are just a few of our sporting events that draw visitors. Add the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and amenities and attractions such as the world-class Rhodes Skate Park, Whitewater Park, Foothills, Boise Greenbelt or Hawks baseball, and we have much to offer visitors from near and far.
For those of us lucky enough to work in this great industry, it’s an honor to represent the Boise area to the outside world. Our pride in our community is a great selling point. Let’s appreciate all the benefits our community members see from visitors to our home. Let’s thank our visitors for visiting our wonderful city and continue to show them the hospitality that makes our city and region shine.
Carrie Westergard is the executive director at the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.