More than 75,000 people visited Reiman Gardens last year. As an attraction that many Ames residents drive past every day, that figure may not be surprising, but it may also not be earth-shattering. 14,000+ attend the Annual Octagon Art Festival. Hickory Park serves 15,000 each week. The Cyclones have an increasing average home football game attendance of almost 58,000.
For locals, these crowd statistics are practically common knowledge, but what is noteworthy – and largely unknown – is the far-reaching impact these destinations and the travel industry has on Ames, Iowa. Travel matters. It matters to the 500,000 overnight visitors to Ames each year. It matters to Ames residents and employees. It matters to Story County and the state of Iowa.
At the national level, travel is critical to the U.S. economy and American jobs. As a leader in workforce development and career advancement, travel creates and supports 15.7 million jobs across the country, making it the seventh-largest private sector employer. In 2018, traveler spending generated $171 billion in total tax revenue.
In Ames, specifically, overnight visitors poured $120 million into the economy through lodging (30%), retail (19%), food and beverage (18%), and entertainment and transportation (33%). For Story County, $2.4 million in revenue came from hotel/motel tax, and more than 1,600 jobs are supported by the travel industry.
Additionally, Ames benefits from travel in the unique way hotel/motel tax funds are used as community grant awards for organizations planning activities for Ames residents and visitors alike. Travel definitely matters to events like Run for the Roses, Reggie’s Sleepout, Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market, the 25th Annual Senior Variety Show, and dozens of other events that fill the community calendar.
Traveler spending reduces the tax burden on Iowans and subsidizes important public programs on which Iowans rely such as education. For a community like Ames that has such a large percentage of tax-exempt land, this income generated from out-of-county visitors is essential to our quality of life.
Consider how travel matters to historic Downtown Ames, the biennial Farm Progress Show, or even future enrollment to Iowa State University. The places and events highlighted in this article help make up the personality of our community, provide jobs to our families, and grow our reach. Travel strengthens families, fosters hometown pride and connects us to the world.
What more could travel do for Ames if there were more great attractions drawing guests from all around us? How much more could we do if we had the facilities to accommodate the needs of conference attendees, large event planners, and vacation seekers? May is National Travel Month, and, more specifically, May 5 – 11 is National Travel and Tourism Week. Ames Mayor John Haila recognized the national event with a local proclamation (see photo) because the City of Ames values the impact of travelers to Ames and Story County. The Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau is joining our partners in the travel industry by elevating the message of “Travel Matters” because it does.