It's often difficult to appreciate blessings close at hand. Hawkeye State tourism may well be in that category for many Iowans.
The truth is, however, that tourism is an extremely important factor in Iowa's economy. It generates more than $7.2 billion annually in spending according to the Travel Federation of Iowa, a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to growing Iowa's tourism industry.
During a time when job growth is a major priority, it's particularly noteworthy that more than 60,000 Iowans are employed in enterprises related to tourism. Those jobs collectively represent an annual payroll that exceeds $1 billion.
While visitor dollars benefit everyone who lives in Iowa indirectly by boosting the overall economy, the impact of the tourism industry on state government revenues is very direct and positive. The TFI estimates that in 2011 state tax revenues in Iowa attributable to this economic sector were $328.8 million.
Here in Webster County the positive financial impact of tourists and other visitors on the local economy is also dramatic.
The Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex is a powerful example of a local venue that draws people from all over the state to Fort Dodge.
According to the local Convention and Visitors Bureau, just over 50 percent of the people who visit Fort Dodge in a typical year are drawn here by the extensive calendar of sports competitions and other leisure-time activities that take place at Rogers. One of the biggest is the Girls State Softball Tournament. The CVB puts the direct positive financial impact on this community of that annual competition at $1.3 million and the indirect stimulus to the economy here at about $4 million. And that's just one of a myriad reasons people journey to Rogers throughout the spring, summer and fall.
The success of Rogers is a dramatic example of how dollars spent by visitors can be a major plus for Fort Dodge and Webster County. The good news is that the array of attractions that can draw tourists to this locale is impressive and extensive.
Marketing is the key to success in many fields. That's especially true in the highly competitive travel industry. The CVB does an excellent job of getting the word out about this community's many pleasures.
Additionally, each year The Messenger publishes a Webster County Visitors Guide. The most recent edition was distributed in this newspaper a week ago. Copies are widely available throughout the community.
Each of us can help in that important work, however, by taking every opportunity in conversations with friends, family members, business associates and others to help sell this town and county as places well worth a visit.
When those recommendations are heeded, visitors will find much here to enjoy and will more than likely make return visits a priority. That will help the local economy grow and, thereby, benefit everyone who calls this area home.