Galveston Island welcomed seven million visitors in 2017, up from 6.5 million in 2016. The numbers reflect a record-breaking tourism season that has a far-reaching impact to the island.
The figures come from an economic impact study commissioned by the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) and conducted by Philadelphia-based Tourism Economics. The report shows that tourism in Galveston has increased steadily for the past several years, with visitation growing nearly 30 percent since 2011.
All these visitors, overnight guests and day trippers, spent $833.7 million here in 2017. That spending generated $1.15 billion in economic activity.
“The majority of these visitors are coming here not only for Galveston’s beaches, but to discover its historic and family attractions,” Park Board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said. “This is a testament to the marketing and public relations strategies put in place at the CVB coupled with the efforts of our tourism partners who continue to develop new reasons for travelers to visit.”
Cruise passengers made up 13.5 percent of total visitors to the island last year. This sector continues to grow, and it made a strong contribution to overall visitor growth last year, too. Cruise embarkations grew from 877,000 in 2016 to 934,000 in 2017 — an almost 7 percent spike.
While visitors are clearly taking advantage of the amenities Galveston has to offer, locals are also winning big. Tourism sustained 11,000 jobs in Galveston last year, representing one in every three jobs on the island. Since the 2009 employment trough, the tourism job market has grown 23.3 percent, compared to 11.8 percent for total employment in Galveston.
Additionally, tourism generated $169 million in taxes in 2017. Tourism-driven state and local tax proceeds of $82.8 million helped offset the average Galveston household tax burden by $4,035. While tourism generated a significant amount of hotel occupancy tax revenue that is restricted, it also contributed $46.8 million in local sales and property tax revenue, accounting for 48.5 percent of the city of Galveston’s General Fund.
“We need to remember that these impressive numbers come even after Hurricane Harvey practically wiped out Labor Day Weekend visitation,” de Schaun said. “We think this shows the strength of the tourism industry as a whole.”
The economic impact report was presented Thursday at the fourth annual tourism summit, held at the Galveston Island Convention Center and organized by the CVB. More than 400 people from the tourism industry attended the free event.
Park board meetings are typically held at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 601 23rd St. in Galveston.