| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Hampden County and Western Massachusetts as a whole is seeing a measurable increase in its tourism industry.
The Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (GSCVB) has released a statement that in calendar year 2017, there was a 6.5 percent increase in direct tourist spending over the 2016 amount.
Mary Kay Wydra, the president of the organization, explained those figures are the latest from the Massachusetts Office of Tourism and Travel, but other metrics indicate that 2018 may have had increases over the 2017 numbers.
Wydra explained to Reminder Publishing that the GSCVB uses Smith Travel Research, which supplies trade information for the hotel industry, to obtain more current figures of room occupancy and rates.
She said the research organization confirmed that in August and September hotel occupancy rates increased with the opening of MGM Springfield. Wydra added that because of MGM’s hotel rates other hotels in the region increased their rates, bringing in more tourism dollars.
Despite that increase, Wydra said, the area is “still a very affordable destination.”
In 2017, tourists to the region spent $608 million, which helped sustain 3,900 jobs and generated $47 million in state and local taxes for Hampden County.
Statewide direct tourism spending increased by 4.8 percent to $22.9 billion in 2017 supporting 149,400 jobs and producing $1.5 billion in state and local taxes.
Communications Coordinator Teisha Parker-Goggin of the GSCVB said an additional way for the organization to gather information is the relationships they have with member attractions. For instance, the GSCVB’s relationship with the Springfield Museums led them to understand the impact made by the opening of “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss,” she noted.
Seeing the attendance figures at the Springfield Thunderbirds – which have included sell-out audiences at the MassMutual Center – also add to the understanding about levels of tourism.
Parker-Goggin said there is a “renaissance” in downtown Springfield with new businesses such as Naismith’s Pub & Pretzel, Art-e-Pizza, Hot Oven Cookies, The Shops at Marketplace and the announced White Lion Brewery and Taproom coming later this year.
In a written statement, Wydra explained, “Additionally, tourism is fought for and earned through our marketing and social media efforts each day and the visitor experience is critically important for return visits. With new tools like our new website and ongoing advertising campaigns, we strive to inform, educate and build awareness which means more revenue, higher demand and stronger hotel occupancy. The more people visiting our region, the more dollars go into our communities. This means more jobs and opportunities for residents and more local tax revenues for cities and towns.”