Study: Douglas County visitors spend $15.5 million more in 2017 than year before

photo by: Nick Krug

Massachusetts Street is illuminated by holiday lights and vehicles on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

Visitors to Douglas County spent $15.5 million more within the county in 2017 than they did the year prior, according to a state tourism study.

Tourism Economics, a company that provides tourism financial reports to the state of Kansas, found that visitors spent $264.7 million in Douglas County in 2017, which is a 6.2 percent increase from the 2016 total of $249.2 million.

The state government commissioned the study but Explore Lawrence, the visitors bureau, receives a localized version of the report each year, said Michael Davidson, executive director of the organization. The study examines visitor spending for lodging, food and beverages, retail, recreation, transport and second homes, all of which saw an increase for 2017 in Douglas County.

Explore Lawrence expected to see an increase in spending because of the 2017 USA Track & Field Junior Olympic Championships that were held in Lawrence in July of that year.

“We expected a decent jump, but this is a little higher than expected,” Davidson said. “We had a decent year for Douglas County.”

Historically, visitor spending in Douglas County has increased each year since at least 2013, and total spending has increased by 40 percent since 2011, according to the study.

The 2017 spending in Douglas County generated about $42.9 million in taxes, with about $25.3 million of those taxes going to the state or local governments. The spending also directly supports about 2,850 jobs.

“(Tourism) is a big supporter for us in terms of generating tax dollars,” Davidson said.

Douglas County ranked fifth among Kansas counties in visitor spending, behind Johnson and Wyandotte counties, which make up part of the Kansas City metro area; and behind Shawnee County, home of the state capital; and Sedgwick County, which has the state’s largest city.

Four of the top five counties are in northeast Kansas, making up more than 50 percent of visitor dollars spent in Kansas, Davidson said. The tourism organizations in northeast Kansas plan to take that information to the state to push for an increase in efforts that help tourism in the area.

“We want them to recognize how important northeast Kansas is to overall tourism in the state,” he said.

As for the current year, Davidson expects visitor spending to be flat when it is reported next year. He said the area that has been a challenge for Douglas County is visitor spending from Sunday to Thursday, which the organization will continue to work on.

The organization also wants to work with the University of Kansas to host more meetings and conventions.

“Our effort, moving forward, is that we have to bring more business to town,” he said, noting the organization always wants to do better. “We’re never satisfied with what we do.”


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