Report Says Economic Importance of U.S. Coastal Tourism "Lacks Appreciation"
WASHINGTON D.C. With Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of the summer tourism season, a report prepared by the National Sea Grant College Program for NOAA and next month's National Conference on the Ocean, says the United States "lacks appreciation for the economic importance of coastal tourism" and that poor coordination of a variety of federal, state and local programs hampers the growth of that economic sector.
In a presentation Monday at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. the report's principle co-authors Robert Knecht and Biliana Cicin-Sain, Co-Directors of the University of Delaware Center for the Study of Marine Policy, said that "coastal tourism and recreation provide a huge positive economic benefit in the United States, both in terms of jobs and earnings and in terms of balance of payments and government revenues. Yet these values often go unrecognized, and are not the subject of concerted attention by policymakers."
Knecht and Cicin-Sain said that "federal and state programs essential to coastal tourism Ã¦ coastal planning and management, beach nourishment, clean water and management of coastal hazards and coastal safety Ã¦ are interrelated and should be treated as a whole." They recommend that an inter-agency initiative be undertaken to address these issues if the coastal tourism industry is to continue to thrive.
The report makes five recommendations: 1) There is a need for greater understanding of the tremendous importance of coastal tourism to the U.S. economy - in jobs and earnings, balance of payments and governmental revenues; 2) Need for systematic collection of data and information on the magnitude, nature and economic and social impacts of tourism and recreation on the coastal zone; 3) Need to reverse the losing position of U.S. promotional efforts in attracting foreign tourists to U.S. coastal areas in comparison to other nations; 4) The need for integration of Federal policies and programs essential for the maintenance of healthy coastal tourism and recreation (coastal planning and management, clean water, beach nourishment, management of coastal hazards and of coastal safety); 5) The need for guidance to states and communities for appropriate tourism development in coastal areas.
The report notes that the U.S. coastal tourism and recreation industries are the largest and fastest growing economic segments of the U.S service industry and that travel and tourism contribute tax revenues in excess of $58 billion a year, with $7.5 billion of that generate by foreign visitors. The reports says that the US ranks 31st in tourism marketing, spending just $17 million annually to attract foreign visitors. In comparison Spain spends 10 times more a year to attract visitors.
The report points to a 1996 study showing that "beaches are the leading tourism destination in the country followed by national parks and historic sites." Last November the EPA reported that coastal and marine waters support 28.3 million jobs, generate $54 billion in goods and services, contribute $30 billion to the U.S. economy through recreational fishing and provide a destination for 180 million Americans to recreate each year.
As an example of coastal economic impact, the authors noted that beach nourishment, while seemingly very expensive, is a relatively small investment in comparison to the revenues good beaches generate. "Miami Beach is an excellent example of just how much good beaches mean," says Cicin-Sain. "There was no beach left by the mid-1970s as a result of erosion. Beginning in the late 1970s a beach renourishment program was initiated, and beach attendance increased from 8 million in 1978 to 21 million visitors just five years later. Annual government revenues collected from foreign visitors to Miami Beach alone has been about 40 times the cost of the beach renourishment project. The same type of return has been shown for Delaware's 25 miles of beaches, and our expenditures to maintain them."
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Robert W. Knecht
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