After a sharp decline, Idaho's tourism industry is on the rise. The Department of Labor reports that 851 jobs have been added in the tourism sector since 2010. Restaurants, bars and hotels make up most of those jobs.
But those 851 jobs are not enough to make up for losses during the height of the Great Recession. Idaho shed 17 percent of tourism jobs at the height of the economic downturn as fewer people came to visit the Gem State.
Andrew Townsend is with the Department of Labor. He says tourism jobs grew 2.6 percent in 2012, which is more than the state's overall job growth of 2 percent. But he says the industry has not recovered. In the Department's 2012 tourism brief, job growth in the industry really began to pick back up:
“Following the Great Recession Idaho’s tourism industry finally began experiencing job growth in 2011. About a thousand jobs were created from the bottom of the recession to total almost 26,000 tourism jobs in 2012. Tourism is also indirectly responsible for supporting another 10,500 jobs in Idaho, putting the total economic impact at around 36,000 jobs.” ~Idaho Department of Labor
Townsend says this sluggish growth is a reflection of the national economy's recovery. He says as more people feel confident in the overall economy and are able to save for vacations, Idaho should see continued tourism growth, which will lead to more jobs.
Karen Ballard helps promote the Gem State around the country. She says Idaho is seeing more tourists with money to spend. That's good for the state and for jobs related to the tourism industry. Ballard says one of the more successful marketing campaigns since the recession has targeted Seattle residents in the winter. She says the award-winning campaign capitalized Idaho's winter sunshine, something Seattle lacks in the winter.
"Seattle fully understood what we meant when we were offering 'Vitamin ID' and 'gloom cessation therapy," she says.
Ballard says an influx in out-of-state travel writers visiting the state is keeping the Idaho buzz going. She's hopeful the growing wine market will attract more tourists willing to spend a little more for good food in a beautiful place.