One is an honest-to-God tourist. the other isn't. Yet both potentially factor into the Virginia Tourism Corporation's "2006, The Economic Impact of Domestic Travel Expenditures on Virginia study.
Which makes that and similar studies nothing more than hokum.
It now appears that the learned individual cited above is not alone in his apprehensions. From "Tourists take memories, leave billions," appearing this morning in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Visitors to the Richmond region doled out about $1.84 billion in 2006 and spent enough time in bars, restaurants, theaters and shopping malls to support 25,990 jobs, a new study shows.
Those same travelers paid $454 million in federal, state and local taxes, saving households in the Richmond area $585 in taxes in 2006, the latest year figures are available, according to a study released this week by the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau.
But Christine Chmura, president of Chmura Economics & Analytics in Richmond, said the economic impact of tourism is difficult to figure "because people often have more than one reason to visit an area, and also, there are few establishments that you can identify as tourism-only," she said.
The state-supported Virginia Tourism Corp. cites an annual survey provided by the Travel Industry Association. For 2006, the survey estimated that $1.7 billion was spent in the Richmond area.
The differing numbers between the Richmond convention bureau's recent survey and the state figures are not surprising, Chmura said. In restaurants, for instance, it is hard to differentiate between local and visiting patrons. (my emphasis)
But the state-funded Virginia Tourism Corporation figured out a way to know precisely that. It switches its study over from measuring tourism expenditures to one looking at "travel expenditures," comes up with a (preposterous) estimate of travel outlay, and then switches back and broadcasts that estimate as involving "tourism expenditures."
Here's how it's done: First the VTC study performs this maneuver:
The word tourism is avoided in this report because of its vague meaning. Some define tourism as all travel away from home while others use the dictionary definition that limits tourism to personal or pleasure travel.Then the study defines "travel":
There is no commonly accepted definition of travel in use at this time. For the purposes of the estimates herein, travel is defined as activities associated with all overnight and day trips to places 50 miles away or more, one way, from the traveler’s origin and any overnight trips away from home in paid accommodations.Sweet. We all become "travelers" every time we journey more than 50 miles from home.
All expenditures that occur on each and every journey thus become "travel expenditures."
Those expenditures, subsequently, go into into an economic impact study that is heralded far and wide as ... drum roll ...
Got it? We're all Virginia tourists on any given day!
Bottom line? Outside of the Harry W. Meador, Jr. Coal Museum over in Big Stone Gap, where you're asked to sign a guest book from which hard statistics can be gathered, nobody has a clue as to the number of tourists that are roaming the area - much less how much money each is spending on a hamburger and a Diet Coke.
Bottom line? Take it all with a grain of salt. They're guessing.