RNB Saturday the big crowd

A crowd watches The Untamed Youth at Roots N Blues 2017.

Tourists. Yeah, they might be annoying. They might overrun your town from time to time, without any idea of how they’re supposed to act. But what would we be without them? Could you imagine True/False with only locals?

May 6 marks National Tourist Appreciation Day, and May 7 is National Tourism Day. Tourism plays a major role in many local economies. In the U.S., one in nine jobs is tourism-related. “Before anyone decides to move their family or business to a city, they visit it,” says Amy Schneider, Director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Tourism is a huge part of Columbia’s economy.”

Although Columbia doesn't pull in more than 25 million tourists like Kansas City and St. Louis, these numbers show that Columbia’s tourism industry is something of significance.

$420,784,514 was spent by tourists in Boone County in the 2017 fiscal year (July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017). This number has increased gradually and has coincided with an increase in tourism related employment and hotel occupancy percentage.

32,419 visitors came to Columbia during the solar eclipse, spending more than $17.4 million. Schneider says the city started preparing for the eclipse about two years in advance to ensure they made the most of the opportunity to attract tourists. Events at Cosmo Park and Gans Creek had visitors from 12 states and seven countries, Schneider says.

207,910 convention attendees flooded to the town in the 2017 fiscal year. Events like True/False, Roots N Blues and Citizen Jane brought in enough tourists to inject more than $55 million into Columbia’s economy in the 2017 fiscal year.

240 miles of the Katy Trail make it one of the nation's longest “rails-to-trails parks,” and is a site for relaxing walks and exercises for many people. Columbia’s outdoor attractions like Finger Lakes State Park, Rockbridge Memorial and the Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary attract those who are looking to get in touch with nature in mid-Missouri.

8,012 Twitter users follow @VisitColumbiaMo. The Convention and Visitors Bureau also has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest in an effort to reach people outside of Columbia and encourage them to visit.

261 active Columbia Tourism Ambassadors. 63 new ambassadors were certified during the 2017 fiscal year, and it is their responsibility to be knowledgeable of the area and ensure visitors have a positive experience. The certification of CTAs is overseen by the Tourism Ambassador Institute.

57 accolades from national magazines and organizations. This includes being ranked one of the top 20 college towns in the U.S. by Business Insider, one of CBS News’ 25 best places to live and the #1 place to survive the zombie apocalypse, according to now-defunct FindTheHome.com.

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