New research reveals Kansas City hosted 22.3 million visitors in 2012, an increase of 2.4 percent over 2011 and a new record for the destination. This total surpasses the previous record set before the recession in 2008, when 22.1 million travelers visited the area. This rebound and growth in tourism is just one of the new findings from research commissioned by the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association (KCCVA).
The studies are conducted every two years look at the economic impact of tourism and the profile of travelers to the Kansas City area (Jackson, Clay, Platte, Johnson and Wyandotte counties). Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company; Reach Market Planning, LLC.; and Longwoods International conducted the studies.
The research showed that tourism remains a vital and growing component of the Kansas City economy. Among the findings in the economic impact study:
“We are thrilled to see that the local tourism industry has not only surpassed pre-recession highs, but are accelerating at a pace greater than most other cities,” said KCCVA Interim President & CEO Jon Stephens. “Travel and tourism is a $4.6 billion industry for Kansas City that it is continuing to grow. We are excited about the future and will continue to build upon this wonderful momentum.”
About 48 percent of visitors (10.8 million) were overnight visitors, with 52 percent (11.5 million) coming for day trips. The majority of overnight visits (84 percent) were for leisure travel. Business travel (business trips, meetings or conventions) accounted for 13 percent of overnight trips—consistent with the findings in 2010. Average spending increased, rising from $110 per person per day in 2010 to $122 per day in 2012 for overnight leisure visitors. The number of visitors that stay in hotels increased to 56 percent.
The new research also shows shifts in tourism spending throughout the metro. Jackson County accounted for the highest percentage of visitor spending at 52 percent while Wyandotte County accounted for the least at 4 percent. However, Wyandotte County outperformed the region in visitor spending growth. The addition of new attractions, such as Hollywood Casino, Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Sporting Park, contributed to a 29-percent increase in visitor spending in Wyandotte County since 2010, with a 251-percent increase in visitor spending on recreation in the county.
In addition to gains on the economic front, the 2012 visitor profile study also revealed changes to the average Kansas City visitor. The average KC visitor became younger with average age dropping from 44.5 years in 2010 to 41.8 years in 2012. Fewer visitors were 65 and older while Gen Y and Gen X visitors increased.
“As America’s Creative Crossroads, tourism is vital to our city,” Stephens said. “Creative, tech and entrepreneurial ventures are a dynamic cornerstone for our region. As businesses seek to attract younger talent, it’s great to see KC draw more younger visitors as many new residents start as a visitor first.”
With a number of new and expanded attractions giving visitors more to see and do, average length of stay increased by 15 percent to 3.44 nights. Family travel also grew to represent a larger share of visits. Family travel accounted for 40 percent of total visits, up 10 points from 30 percent of total visits in 2010. This increase follows the opening of a number of family-friendly attractions since 2010: LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Sea Life Aquarium, Polar Bear Passage and Sky Safari at the Kansas City Zoo, Planet Snoopy expansion at Worlds of Fun, and the continued expansion of Schlitterbahn Waterpark.