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Missouri's Annual Tourism Tallies Indicate Visitors
 to the State Up Less then 1% in 2007

By Rick Alm, The Kansas City Star, Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Mar. 18, 2008 - Missouri tourism was up about 1 percent last year, according to new data released by the state's Division of Tourism.

Economists at the University of Missouri-Columbia found total visitors to the state up 0.9 percent to 39.2 million, while direct tourism spending was up 1 percent to $8.2 billion. The state's total travel-related economic output was flat at $13.1 billion. The fiscal year data covered the 12-month period ending June 30, 2007.

Increased spending creates tourism jobs, and those numbers also were up, to a record 293,584 people employed by Missouri's visitor industry, including 37,253 in Jackson County.

Meanwhile, Jackson County accounted for $1.4 billion of the direct spending total. Clay County accounted for $328 million and Platte County for $243 million; while cash registers in Cass County rang up $86 million in tourism-related sales.

For those keeping score in the cross-state rivalry, the St. Louis metro area, including St. Charles County, logged $3.5 billion in visitor spending, with 109,328 employed in tourism.

The annual tourism tallies include Missourians who travel 50 or more miles from home on business or pleasure, and those numbers also were up last year to a record 44.9 percent of all travelers.

Travelers from Missouri and eight surrounding states also hit an all-time high of 76.6 percent. The downside to those numbers is that the state's appeal as a national destination is not growing in relation to its regional drawing power.

By the same measure, leisure travel grew 1 percent and now constitutes 87.4 percent of all travel in the state. But business travel slipped a point to 12.6 percent, a downer since corporate road warriors tend to spend a bit more.

Overall, the study found the average visitor to Missouri spent $173.50 per trip, up 3.4 percent from 2006.

What did they spend it on? According to the study: transportation, 26 percent; food and beverage, 25 percent; lodging, 20 percent; shopping, 11 percent; entertainment, 8 percent; gambling, 3 percent; and golf and spas, 1 percent.

Other Missouri tourism facts:

--Minority tourism fell in 2007, with black visitors down 0.7 percent and Hispanics down 0.3 percent.

--Illinois and Kansas provide the most tourists to Missouri, followed (in order) by Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa and Nebraska.

Casino shops

Missouri's newest casino offers a first for gambling boats in the state.

Lumiere Place, the $507 million luxury entertainment complex built by Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., opened in December in downtown St. Louis and has since added four boutique shops, with more envisioned.

No other gambling boat in the state offers retail shopping, a core element of the Las Vegas destination gambling experience.

The concept just isn't practical or profitable in markets that generate far less window-shopping foot traffic. Lumiere Place has the advantage of a pedestrian link to the city's main convention center and event arena.

Pinnacle also is one of several applicants for a Wyandotte County casino license. Its 60-acre site would link to the Schlitterbahn Vacation Village water theme park, and plans call for a retail strip along a man-made river walk attraction.

Nobody is likely to mistake a Pinnacle/Schlitterbahn mall for one of Las Vegas' elegant shop-lined casino promenades.

But to be sure, no one will mistake it for one of Kansas City's shopless casinos either.

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Grinter hoedown Looking for a little hometown tourism?

Try a Kansas Historical Society country music concert and dinner at Grinter Place.

Overlooking the historic Delaware Crossing on the Kansas River, Grinter Place is the oldest home in Wyandotte County and one of 16 historic sites operated by the society.

Free concerts are planned for Thursday and April 17. Dinner will cost you a few bucks.

For more information, go to www.kshs.org/places/grinter.

To reach Rick Alm, call 816-234-4785 or send e-mail to ralm@kcstar.com.

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To see more of The Kansas City Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.kansascity.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

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