Tourism industry gaining respect as economic driver

Debbie Kovalik believes the tourism industry doesn’t always receive the credit the sector deserves for its economic contributions. “It’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of the economy. It gets no respect.”

There’s a growing appreciation in the Grand Valley, though, for the tourism industry and its role in strengthening and diversifying the economy, says Kovalik, the retiring executive director of Visit Grand Junction.

Kovalik cites the results of an analysis presented earlier this year that found that tourism accounts for more than 5,500 jobs and nearly $140 million in annual wages in Mesa County.

Kovalik considers tourism an export industry in bringing new dollars into the economy rather than simply circulating existing money.

Tourism constitutes the primary economic driver for some tourism destinations in Colorado that’s subject to the ups and downs of the travel business. Tourism joins other sectors in the Grand Valley in creating a more diversified and therefore resilient economy, she says.

The tourism industry also creates jobs that might pay below-average wages, but also offer opportunities and training to workers entering the labor market. Moreover, entry level jobs in the tourism industry lead to higher-paying management positions, Kovalik says.

The tourism industry also improves the quality of life not only for visitors, but also residents, for its role in promoting restaurants, cultural events and other amenities, she says.