MONTEREY, Calif. - New numbers from the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau show tourism is having a huge impact on the local economy. With more visitors coming to the area -- tourism officials are stressing responsible travel.
Those new numbers show tourism injected $2.85 billion into the economy last year. That’s a three and a half percent boost from the year before.
It’s no surprise that Monterey County continues to attract more and more visitors every year. The area offers sweeping ocean views, a number of activities and lots of restaurants and shopping opportunities.
The new report, Monterey County Travel Impacts, shows that tourism is nearly a $3 billion industry that has helped generate 25,000 jobs and $127 million in local tax revenue.
International visitors have nearly doubled from 7.5 percent in 2015 to 13.8 percent in 2017.
"The great thing about our international visitors is that they stay longer and they spend more," said Tammy Blount-Canavan, president and CEO of MCCVB. "So they're stopping, they're staying overnight, they're golfing, they're eating, they're shopping and really primarily enjoying the open spaces that we have here that they don't have at home so much."
The top three areas where people visit from are China, the United Kingdom and Canada.
In fact, we met a British couple in the middle of a three-week long California road trip.
"We'd heard about Monterey, I mean the Big Sur is closed in a place, but we liked the coastal road so we started up from LA, worked our way up the coast as much as we can and Monterey seemed like a nice place to stay, you've got Carmel and other places just around the headlands, haven't you? We knew you could ride the bikes, we knew about the aquarium, and various other things," Paul said.
With the uptick in visitors can come an increase in problems. That’s why the Convention and Visitors Bureau is working on an initiative called "sustainable moments."
“Most importantly trying to help them understand what our expectations of their behavior, so sustainable, being careful about wildlife, making sure that we're respectful of trails, making sure we are respectful of where they can legally park or camp, or dispose of our garbage or find a restroom. Those kind of things are really important for us to communicate to visitors so they're treating our destination with care and really traveling like a local,” said Blount-Canavan.
They’re working with international travel agents, posting information on their website and working with partners to help educate visitors whether they're here for the day or even longer. One of the partners is the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The aquarium focuses on conservation. It works with local restaurants using "seafood watch best choices," and has tackled plastic pollution. You won't find plastic straws or packaging in the food area and many of the toys in the gift shop have been repackaged to use less plastic.
"One of the things we want people to know when they come to this area is they have come to a special place," said Ken Peterson, senior communications strategist of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "And the fact that there's so many people out whale watching or biking or kayaking, hiking or walking on the rec trail, they understand that this is a special place and the wildlife and the pristine environment are what attract them to come visit us in the Monterey Bay. So telling them and reinforcing their responsibility to make sure the place is as good as it was as they arrived, you know, the whole 'take only pictures, leave only footprints' is an important thing to do."
Statewide -- tourism brought in a record $132.4 billion last year employing more than a million people.