DES MOINES — Travelers spent about $7.2 billion in Iowa in 2011, a 10.3 percent yearly increase for an industry that supports 63,400 jobs statewide, according to a report issued Monday by state officials.
Officials in the state Economic Development Authority’s Iowa tourism office said travelers increased spending on auto transportation, lodging, food service and general retail activity in 2011.
Iowa’s five highest tourism expenditure counties were Polk, Linn, Scott, Johnson and Black Hawk counties, according to the study.
The data, prepared by the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C., estimated that people traveling in and to Iowa generated an estimated $372.6 million in federal tax revenue, $328.8 in state tax revenue, and $101.4 million in local tax revenue. Travel-related employment increased 2.2 percent last year from 2010, and the industry supported 63,400 jobs in Iowa, representing $1.1 billion in total payroll.
“When people think of travel, they naturally think of mountains and beaches,” DEA Director Debi Durham said in a statement. “But tourism is big business in Iowa, too.”
The millions of people who come each year to attend a family reunion, enjoy a long weekend or participate in a conference or sporting event spend money and grow Iowa’s economy, she added. Generally, a traveler is defined as anyone who goes more than 50 miles one way from home or who spends the night away from home.
“Travelers are the perfect taxpayers,” Durham said. “They come to our communities for a short time and leave billions of dollars behind. Traveler spending pays for public services like schools and government programs, yet out-of-state travelers don’t utilize these services. Travelers pay taxes so we don’t have to.”
The report, “The Economic Impact of Travel on Iowa Counties,” is available online at traveliowa.com/downloads/countyimpact11.pdf and includes state- and county-specific data.