Business Columns & Blogs

They may not stand out, but Boise gets plenty of visitors – who quickly become the city’s friends

Carrie Westergard
Carrie Westergard

I was asked recently why Boise didn’t seem to have many tourists. They were looking for the kind of visitors they’d seen in vacation hot spots: young backpackers, sunburned families or lost-looking guys with cameras around their necks.

Well, if you’re looking for Clark Griswold, you might be disappointed. But make no mistake, Boise’s economy is thriving in part due to the influx of visitors. In 2017 we had 1.7 million overnight stays in the Boise area. That has grown from 1.4 million five years ago.

People from across the country – and the world – are discovering Boise. The Boise CVB has solicited and welcomed glowing coverage in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, CNN and numerous publications in bigger cities. And 2018 dawned with a “Today” show segment featuring Boise as one of the best places to visit this year.

We welcome this coverage because it inspires people to visit and it helps bring important business to our city. But even still, many of these visitors don’t “look” like tourists.

People may come here only as a business traveler, and the next time they bring their families and come on their own, and they experience more on a leisure basis.

Maybe they’re here for one of Boise’s signature events, whether it’s Jaialdi, the ESPN X Games or the other major sporting events headed our way. Sports organizers love Boise: We’ve had great success recently, as we discovered when the Far West Regional Soccer Tournament series would come back in 2019 and 2020, and when the Big Sky Conference men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments were scheduled for Boise in 2019, ’20 and ’21.

They may not be “traditional” tourists, but the impact they have on our economy is undeniable. In 2017, research funded by the state of Idaho showed that our state welcomed 34.3 million trips. About 40 percent of those were overnight trips, which generated $1.9 billion in spending in our state.

For a localized example, consider that Boise’s hotels are seeing their revenues increase as rooms fill with visitors. As this trend increases, our hotel operators are able to charge more. As hotel occupancy grows, room revenues increase, which means more money injected into our local economy.

All this positive growth in the tourism sector of our economy means jobs for Idaho’s people. We estimate there are about 29,000 travel-related jobs in the state. Now, we have a need for more workers in the hospitality industry. Now, tourism in Boise can mean jobs for people. Now, tourism can offer a career to our residents.

Visitors also bring something else: enthusiasm for the great city of Boise. The feedback we at the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau receive is that people loved their time in our town. We are lucky to have our economy boosted by something as friendly as a visit.

Carrie Westergard is the executive director of the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.