The wildlife tourism industry in the Gulf of Mexico states is a $19 billion industry and generates 2.6 million jobs, according to a report released today by Datu Reseach, an economic research firm. The study was funded by Environmental Defense Fund with support from the Walton Family Foundation.
“Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy” concluded that wildlife tourism is extremely valuable to the Gulf Coast economy and relies heavily on the health of the endangered Gulf Coast ecosystem in Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi.
Wildlife tourism includes recreational fishing, hunting and wildlife watching.
In addition to $19 billion in annual spending, the report says wildlife tourism attracts more than 20 million participants annually, generates $5.3 billion in annual in tax revenues and found that tourism jobs can account for 20-36 percent of all private jobs in counties that border the coast.
Recreational fishing accounts for the largest share of spending — about $8 billion. Wildlife watching generates $6.5 billion and hunting, $5 billion. Florida has the largest wildlife tourism segment at $8 billion, while Texas is second at over $5 billion. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi each bring in nearly $2 billion in wildlife tourism revenues.
Wildlife watching in the Gulf Coast states attracts 11.6 billion visitors, more than any other wildlife activity, followed by recreational fishing and hunting. Florida and Texas each draw over 7 million wildlife tourists. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi each have approximately 2 million.
The reports said, tourism drives creates 489,256 jobs in 53 counties from Florida to Texas. More than half of those are in Florida, while the report says Mississippi tourism creates 26,294 jobs in its three counties.
Of the $5.3 billion in tax revenue, about $2.5 billion are state and local revenue. Again, Florida leads that group with about $1 billion, while Mississippi and its coastal counties gain about $209 million annually.
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