24 million visitors, $6.7 billion in spending and over 120 thousand jobs – these are the numbers that the tourism industry contributed to Mississippi’s economy in 2019 alone. Just think about those numbers for a second. The tourism industry played a huge part in attracting 24 million people to experience our wonderful state. Those visitors pumped $6.7 billion dollars into our economy. 120 thousand Mississippians are employed by the tourism industry. That is almost 11% of jobs in our state and is the fourth largest employer. The numbers are staggering, so that’s why everybody needs to know just how important tourism actually is to our state.
According to this article from y’allpolitics.com from mid-March through May 16, national industry research firm Tourism Economics reported approximately $1.2 billion in Mississippi visitor spending was lost, which resulted in $47 million in lost state tax revenue and $15 million in lost local tax revenue when compared to this time last year. That’s a $62 million gap, just in Mississippi tax revenue, that will greatly widen as COVID-19 continues to take a dismal economic toll on visitor destinations throughout our state.
Local restaurants depend on tourism. Think about it – what’s one of the first questions an out-of-towner asks when they reach their destination? What’s good to eat locally? Every time you go eat at your favorite restaurant, odds are there is someone sitting right next to you visiting from out of state. Restaurants thrive on tourism, and tourism depends on restaurants to thrive.
Museums need tourism. The Mississippi GRAMMY Museum, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History (just to name a few) do a fantastic job of telling the stories of Mississippi’s decorated past. They show us just how far we have come as a state. They tell of the artists and visionaries that helped shape not only our state, but our country. These museums absolutely depend on tourism to continue to tell their stories.
Local artists need tourism in order to grow their craft. Mississippians love to support from within. We love to show off all of the beautiful things our artists are creating. Tourism can take a local artist and make them a household name. It’s a win for our state every time someone comes into Mississippi and experiences what our local artists are producing. They go back home and tell their friends of the unbelievable music scene, the eye opening murals, the amazing sculptures or the inspiring paintings they saw in our state. Our storied literature past and present comes from amazing writers that we can guarantee you benefited from tourism. The tourism industry helps bring these people in so they can have these experiences and help us spread the word.
It’s not just visitors from neighboring states making the drive over. Mississippi’s international market is growing every year. There were 165,000 visitors from 12 different countries who were able to experience some Mississippi hospitality last year. This tells us that the word is spreading. Sometimes the hard part is getting them here. As soon as they come – it’s always easy to get them to come back.
Many states are cutting tourism budgets left and right. Not here. The leadership in Mississippi sees the massive impact tourism has on our economy and is ramping up funding. In the past Mississippi has ranked near the bottom in terms of budgets for tourism agencies. With this new funding that is no longer the case. $6.7 billion in spending from tourists – that is a number that just can not be ignored. Think about where we would be if we took that spending out of our economy. Now think about where we could go if we doubled it. There is no denying the coronavirus will have an impact on Mississippi’s economy. Lucky for us we have a dedicated army of tourism professionals committed to doing everything they can to not only resurrect the state’s tourism efforts, but to also help rehabilitate Mississippi’s economy.