Business

Tourists pour millions into Island County

"A new study proves what business people in Island County have long known -- tourism translates into ringing cash registers.A study released this week by Washington State Tourism breaks down tourism income by county. Robin Pollard, state tourism director, said that in 1999 actual tourism spending in Island County was $98.5 million, an amount which:* Generated $27.4 million in total business earnings.* Produced $1.3 million in local tax revenues and $5.7 million in state taxes.* Created 2,700 jobs in Island County directly supported by the visitor industry.Pollard said Thursday that her department has been compiling county-by-county tourism spending reports since 1993, when Island County attracted $85.2 million in tourism spending.The $98.5 million figure for 1999 roughly translates into a 3 percent growth rate per year since 1993.Statewide, tourism spending has been growing at about 5 percent annually. But Pollard said Island County's 3 percent growth is right in the ballpark, with the higher average caused by several counties in which tourism has boomed.How did tourists in Island County spend their money in 1999? According to State Tourism, the leading categories were:* $33 million spent at eating and drinking places.* $20 million spent in retail sales.* $13 million spend on lodging.* $9 million spend in food stores.Statewide, travel spending in Washington last year reached a record level of $10.6 billion.However, Pollard said tourism is showing signs starting to top out. As a result, the Tourism Office has shifted it advertising strategy from small print ads to a full-color image campaign drive in which travel consumers are urged to log on to the state's official tourism website, www.experiencewashington.com.Pollard said that for every dollar the state spends on advertising, the state gains $39 in visitor spending. "

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