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July 08, 2011  BY Melanie Lynch

Tourism and hospitality industries in Boone County are seeing a brighter fiscal future after enduring a prolonged economic recession.

Trends show people have been taking fewer vacations and staying home for the past two years, but Amy Schneider, acting director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she is “cautiously optimistic” about this year.

“You had to be creative with your staffing and still give people the guest service that they are looking for,” Schneider said about how hotels have survived the recession.

Schneider said she hopes to see more jobs and revenue for Boone County this and next year. The past year has shown a growth of 1 percent, and Schneider said she would like to see a growth of at least 2 percent next year.

According to the Missouri Division of Tourism’s 2010 annual report, tourism contributed $306,953,115 to Boone County’s economy and provided 9,461 jobs. Although the number of jobs has decreased during the past five years, the total amount of money that visitors have spent in the county keeps climbing (see graphs).

“Columbia tourism has a lot of legs,” Schneider said. “It accounts for revenue and jobs among hotels, restaurants and attractions.”

For local attractions, Columbia draws fans of both youth and college sports. Many state competitions are held in Columbia, and next summer the Missouri Special Olympics State Summer Games will give the local tourism industry an extra boost. Sports and youth sports give the most immediate financial impact, Schneider said, and the indirect economic impact is seen in restaurants and hotels.

Hotel occupancy rates also indicate how the hospitality industry is growing. Last May the average occupancy rate was 52 percent in Columbia, and this past May the rate was 53.7 percent.

Currently, these occupancy rates are a little more than 50 percent, according to Schneider. “Occupancy is up 2 percent over last year, and revenue per available room is up 3.2 percent over last year” in Columbia and Jefferson City, said Lori Simms, the deputy director for marketing at the Department of Tourism. Schneider expects the hotel occupancy rates to rise as the summer season continues.

There are 17 tourism-related SIC (standard industrial classification) codes the Missouri Department of Tourism highlights as part of tourism:

• Eating places only
• Eating and drinking places
• Drinking places – alcohol beverages only
• Hotel, motel and tourist courts
• Rooming and boarding houses
• Camps and trailer parks
• Trailer parks and camp sites
• Organization hotel and lodging houses
• Producers, orchestras, entertainers
• Commercial sports
• Miscellaneous amusement and recreational
• Boat and canoe rentals
• Public golf courses and swimming pools
• Amusement parks
• Tourist attractions
• Amusement not elsewhere classified
• Botanical and zoological gardens