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Tourism strong despite weak national economy, tourism director reports
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (May 7, 2009) — Tourism is looking up in Pulaski County despite downturns in the national economy, Tourism Bureau Executive Director Beth Wiles told county commissioners Thursday morning.

Wiles, who runs an agency that is supported by a transient guest tax on hotels and motels in Pulaski County, told commissioners that she represents Pulaski County at 16 different national trade shows seeking to draw vacationers and conventions to Pulaski County, and also markets the county’s attractions via advertising in 19 different publications.

“These trade shows and marketplaces are where we go and meet people one-on-one,” Wiles said. “We have a tremendous amount of visitors who come into the area and are bringing new money ... it is a very important part of the economics of this community.”

Much of the hotel and motel traffic and some of the general tourism involves military families who come to Pulaski County to attend basic training graduation ceremonies. Responding to questions from Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall, Wiles said staff members at the Pulaski County Visitors’ Center on St. Robert Boulevard are currently seeing about 60 people per day, with higher numbers on graduation days.

The number can go up during peak summer months and even during the winter is usually about two dozen people per day who come to the Visitors’ Center to find out more about Pulaski County attractions, Wiles said.

“So 20 to 100 people drop by per day? It’s great you have that many,” Ransdall said.

Commissioner Bill Farnham noted the role of the tourism bureau in promoting Route 66 through Pulaski County, including the historic Devil’s Elbow bridge area.

“I was amazed when I was reading all the different people from all over the world who were signing that (Elbow Inn visitors) book. It’s new money from all over the country and a lot of people don’t realize that,” Farnham said.

People interested in Route 66 are sometimes visitors from other countries, Wiles said, noting that it’s a popular vacation travel route for Europeans who want to see historic small-town America. A recent tour with local historian Terry Primus was arranged by the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau for a group of Norwegian Army personnel training at Fort Leonard Wood, she said.

Wiles said the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau is hosting an open house on Tuesday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Visitors’ Center, and invited the commissioners to attend.

“We’re working really hard just to get the word out,” Wiles said.

Next week’s event is part of National Tourism Week, which is being promoted by the Missouri Division of Tourism along with the U.S. Travel Association. According to a press release from the Missouri Division of Tourism, state officials are promoting a “Stay Close” advertising campaign seeking to get Missourians who are concerned about vacation costs to “stay close” to friends and family while traveling in Missouri, noting that Missouri is within easy driving distance for about one-sixth of Americans who live in Missouri and adjacent states.

The state press release indicated that more than 39 million people visited Missouri in 2008, generating $425 million in tax revenues through tourism and contributing $10.1 billion to the state’s economy.

“People may be cutting back on expenses, but research indicates that few will forego a vacation with family, and we remain optimistic about this year’s summer travel season,” said R.B. “Bob” Smith III, interim director of the Missouri Division of Tourism, in the press release.

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