Tourism, Travel, Leisure and Hospitality in the Rogue Valley

Tourism, Travel, Leisure and Hospitality in the Rogue Valley

by Guy Tauer

June 17, 2016

This time of year, many are taking summer vacations to visit family, friends, or traveling to destinations to visit and recreate. People who are employed serving the needs of those travel are considered to be working in the tourism industry. According to the Oregon Tourism Commission, Oregon had $10.8 billion in direct travel spending, including destination spending and other travel spending in 2015. This was up from $8.2 billion in 2009, during the Great Recession. Many tourism jobs are included in the leisure and hospitality industry. But not all tourism jobs are found in leisure and hospitality. Conversely, not all leisure and hospitality jobs are a direct result of tourism. Local dollars also flow into local bars, restaurants and other recreational amenities.

One perception of the tourism, leisure and hospitality industry is that jobs are often seasonal, part-time and lower wage. There is some truth to that, with average wage per leisure and hospitality job in Jackson County at $18,087 and $15,673 in Josephine County. However, there are many more year-round jobs in leisure and hospitality than seasonal summer jobs. In Jackson County, there were only 1,180 jobs more in the 2015 peak summer tourism month of August (10,830) than there were during the lowest employment month, January (9,650). While the average wage for this industry is lower than the average for all industries, there are many higher-paying occupations that are employed in travel and tourism-related businesses.

The value of all goods and services produced by an economy is known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2014, the leisure and hospitality industry contributed over one-half of a billion dollars ($551,000,000) to Jackson County's economy, or 8.5 percent of the total GDP. Compared with the manufacturing industry – more frequently thought of as a traded sector and one of the targeted industries by the local workforce board – manufacturing composed 11.1 percent of the county's GDP. Leisure and hospitality accounted for 9 percent of Josephine County's 2014 GDP, or $165,000,000. Real or inflation-adjusted leisure and hospitality GDP was just below its pre-recession peak in 2014, and likely surpassed it in 2015.

Leisure and hospitality employment is a larger share of the Rogue Valley's payroll employment total compared with the U.S. average. Leisure and hospitality represented 13.7 percent of Josephine and 14.5 percent of Jackson's payroll employment in 2015. The U.S. had a lower share, with 12.8 percent of total payroll jobs in leisure and hospitality last year.

Rogue Valley leisure and hospitality employment has grown steadily since the end of the Great Recession. Employment grew steadily from 2001 and reached a pre-recession peak in 2007 of 12,620 jobs. From 2007 to 2010, payroll employment declined by nearly 1,400 jobs, or about 11 percent. Since 2010, job counts have risen solidly, reaching the previous pre-recession peak in 2014 and continuing to climb. From 2010 to 2015, the Rogue Valley added 2,080 leisure and hospitality jobs, up by 18.5 percent during those five years. The Rogue Valley has yet to regain all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, but stronger than average growth in leisure and hospitality is one factor contributing to the job recovery we've seen. Between 2005 and 2015, Jackson County total payroll employment fell by 0.4 percent, while leisure and hospitality grew by 13.5 percent. Traded sector manufacturing employment increased by just 2 percent during that time.

Comparing growth rates between Jackson and Josephine counties shows a similar overall boom-bust-recovery trend, but also some differences. From 2010 to 2015, leisure and hospitality job growth rates were faster in Josephine County during four of those six years. On the other hand, employment began declining a year sooner in Josephine County in advance of the Great Recession and continued to decline in 2010, while employment had stabilized by then in neighboring Jackson County.

In addition to payroll employment – jobs covered by unemployment insurance – there are numerous nonemployers, most of which are self-employed and operate unincorporated businesses. These figures are tallied by the U.S. Census Bureau from tax return information from the Internal Revenue Service. The most recent year's figures are from 2014 and they showed Jackson County with 1,410 leisure and hospitality nonemployers with total sales receipts of $38,822,000. Josephine County had 356 nonemployers with total receipts of $7,853,000 in 2014.

Travel Spending and Its Impact on Industry Employment

There are public and private organizations that focus on travel and tourism, such as the Oregon Tourism Commission, Travel Oregon and the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. The Oregon Tourism Commission contracts Dean Runyan Associates to provide research and data relating to travel spending for Oregon and its counties. Their report, Oregon Travel Impacts 1992-2015p  is the source for this information and can be found online at: .

Direct travel spending is defined as the sum of visitor and other spending related to travel. Other spending includes spending by residents on ground and air transportation for the purpose of travel to other destinations and spending on travel arrangement and reservation services, and convention and trade show organizers services. In Jackson County, total direct travel spending reached $528.3 million in 2015, up 3.7 percent from the prior year and the average growth rate in travel spending was also 3.7 percent from 2000 to 2015. Josephine County's direct travel spending reached $124.7 million in 2015, up by 0.7 percent from one year earlier. Josephine County's average growth rate in travel spending has grown more slowly than Jackson's from 2000 to 2015, growing 2.1 percent over that time.

According to estimates by Dean Runyan Associates, there were about 7,000 jobs generated directly by travel spending in the Rogue Valley in 2015. About 70 percent of those travel-generated jobs were in the leisure and hospitality industry. About one out of six additional jobs were in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry. Another one out of ten travel-generated jobs in the Rogue Valley were in retail trade. Other sectors had relatively few jobs associated with travel spending.

While it's not possible to discern how many jobs at a particular business result from travel spending, the estimates from Dean Runyan Associates going back to 1992 are the most cited figures when questions arise about the sector's size and employment generated by tourism and travel spending for Oregon and its counties. This sector has reach beyond just the data and numbers. How many businesses are here because the owners first visited here, fell in love with the Rogue Valley and decided to start, expand or relocate their businesses here? Those data if available would extend the overall impact of travel and tourism even further.

For more information from organizations involved in travel and tourism, and leisure and hospitality, contact the Oregon Tourism Commission (Travel Oregon), and the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. Dean Runyon Associates contracts with the Oregon Tourism Commission to produce the Oregon Travel Impact Study.