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Tourism Outlook: Rachel Wood

Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau Chief Marketing Officer

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Rachel Wood works in a market that attracted a Branson-record 9 million visitors in 2016 and contributed to $712 million in tourism-related expenditures in Stone and Taney counties last year.

2019 Projection: With nearly $1 billion in the pipeline for the Branson area in tourism-related projects, tourism is headed into another record year.

SBJ: Which area of Branson tourism could be improved in 2019?
Wood: We plan to focus on identifying what our shoulder seasons are and targeting those potential visitors that are available to visit Branson during those time frames.
 
SBJ: How will short-term rentals impact the industry?
Wood: Short-term rentals, such as Vacation Rentals By Owner and Airbnb, are becoming a mix of what consumers expect in the marketplace. However, the lion’s share of consumers still want more traditional consistent lodging options. From a capacity standpoint, the short-term rental product is not growing at a substantial rate.
 
SBJ: How are tourism sales performing in the Branson market?
Wood: Sales tax receipts through September 2018 indicate that Branson’s tourism tax revenues were up 4.73 percent and that Taney County sales tax revenues were up 6 percent. The [Branson/Lakes Area] Tourism Community Enhancement District tax revenues posted a 6.4 percent increase and Branson’s 1 percent city sales tax revenues were up 7.51 percent.

SBJ: What is the biggest challenge facing tourism going into 2019?
Wood: By and large, community leaders agree our biggest challenge is workforce development. In order to alleviate pressure on our community stakeholders, we are fully committed to expanding our existing talent attraction and retention programs, as well as identifying future strategies.
 
SBJ: Which sector will see the most growth in 2019?
Wood: Nationwide, according to the U.S. Travel Association, leisure travel trips have increased in 2018 by 1.9 percent, while business travel trips increased by 2.1 percent. The extended forecast through 2020 shows leisure travel increasing by 1.6 percent and business travel increasing by 1.3 percent. Spending on personal travel, including leisure, education and health-related travel, as well as passenger air transportation, increased 3.1 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively. Education-related travel, in and of itself, accounted for nearly two-thirds of the increase in personal travel.
 
SBJ: According to the Missouri Division of Tourism, $20.7 million was allocated for state tourism in 2017. What will the economic impact of tourism be in 2019 in southwest Missouri?
Wood: As long as the state of Missouri continues to fund tourism at appropriate levels, we will continue to see a positive return on investment. Tourism is the second-largest industry in the state.

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