If you think the hospitality and leisure industry is all fun and games, think again. It’s serious business and a major economic component of communities from the giant amusement parks of Central Florida to the neon lights of Las Vegas.
How important an industry? Consider a new analysis on bizjournals.com that tracks employment growth in the sector over the last five years. In Texas alone, the hospitality segment accounts for more than 1 million jobs, and despite a sour economy that took some bite out of vacation spending the last few years, the Lone Star State added 115,000 hospitality jobs in the last five years.
Top gaining states in hospitality employment:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Washington D.C.
New Jersey is known as the World’s Medicine Chest for the high concentration of pharmaceutical and life sciences companies that are based there. But the hospitality sector is also a major force in the state’s economy, employing more than 350,000 people at its famed beach resorts, arts and cultural attractions, and entertainment hotspots that include Atlantic City’s resorts and casinos.
The impact of the hospitality sector isn’t confined to high-population states. Consider Kentucky, where close to one in 10 jobs are tied to a hospitality sector that includes everything from horses to history to bourbon to bluegrass. Recognizing the significance of the industry, which delivered an $11.7 billion economic impact in 2011, the state is actively promoting its unique visitor attractions and it was one of the early adopters of agritourism promotion that give new income streams to farms.
In Kansas, with a population of just 2.6 million people and plenty of wide open spaces, the hospitality sector delivers a $5.5 billion economic punch from the cattle trails of Dodge City to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The industry employs more than 117,000 people in a state where the labor force numbers about 1.5 million.
The hospitality sector has an additional significance as a driver of economic development. It rides shotgun on the quality of place caravan, providing arts, culture, entertainment and recreation vitality that not only draw visitors but also permanent residents.
Where does the hospitality sector figure into your community’s economic development mix? What are the benefits and drawbacks of having a large hospitality segment? How do you see the sector contributing to your area’s quality of place? Share your thoughts.