MARIPOSA COUNTY — Visitation to Mariposa County increased in 2021, bringing with it a boost to the tourism-based economy as pandemic restrictions eased. In total, $361.6 million was spent by visitors to the county, a huge increase over the $255.3 million spent in 2020 according to The Economic Impact of Travel in California, a report published this week by Visit California and prepared by Dean Runyan Associates.
Even more encouraging news, the 41.6% increase in spending in the county brought back 550 more tourism-based jobs – a total of 4,230 jobs, an increase of 14% from 2020’s total and the highest number of tourism-based jobs in the county since 2017.
Mariposa County’s workforce expansion in the tourism sector was twice the national average in 2021, which is not a surprise, as tourism historically accounts for nearly 50% of the county’s total work force.
“Through hard work and persistence, our county showed its resiliency in 2021, and that tourism will be a viable economic leader for years to come,” said Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau CEO and Executive Director, Jonathan Farrington. “During the pandemic, people dreamed of being outdoors, and Mariposa County and Yosemite provides natural comfort during difficult times. We still have challenges to overcome in 2022 and beyond, but also things to be optimistic about. YMCTB is already working to ensure that Mariposa County’s economic growth continues this year through our destination marketing and promotion.”
Visitor spending to Mariposa County increased in nearly all categories including accommodations, food service, retail sales and arts, entertainment and recreation. Most notably, accommodation spending was up 47.2% to $161 million. The leader in accommodation spending was private home or vacation rental spending which was up 211% to $10.9 million from $3.5 million in 2020, illustrating the desire to travel and stay in “family bubbles” while concerns over the pandemic were prevalent.
Income from tourists visiting Mariposa County via taxable receipts was up 37.9% in 2022 with $21.6 million dollars. This spending by tourists goes to support county finances and services for fire protection, road maintenance, county staffing and supports the Mariposa County Sheriff Department.
Few counties in California bring in more visitor spending per capita than our own. Mariposa County was tied with Alpine County for the highest percent of visitor-generated taxable sales at 36.1%. Mariposa County’s tax income per household of $4,627 is the third highest in the state only behind Alpine and Mono Counties.
The local tourism economy turned a corner in 2021, but there is still more room for recovery in coming years. Destination spending was still down by more than $100 million from 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. However, international visitation is expected to return to normal levels by 2024 or 2025 as pandemic concerns are overcome & international travel restrictions ease and lift. Added international visitation will be further supported by improved domestic travel sentiment as concerns over COVID-19 ease.
To ensure that international visitors will choose Mariposa County as a destination to visit, the Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau is adding advertising to international markets in the United Kingdom, Germany, Scandinavia, and Australia to keep the county front of mind for those planning their bucket list trip after saving for two to three years. It will be a competitive market once international travel returns and with proper funding, the Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau can be well-situated to support a return to pre-pandemic taxable incomes levels from tourism.
Challenges to the long-term viability of Mariposa County’s tourism industry do still exist such as the Yosemite Temporary Peak Hours Reservation System and economic concerns related to inflation. The Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau stands poised to navigate a still uncertain future by promoting Mariposa County as a family-friendly destination that is accessible to all budgets, age groups and interests.