10-20-14 – To Have And To Have More

posted by Chris Campion

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, when not busily touting the successes of his single-payer campaign, recently spoke about how vital the tourism industry is to Vermont, and how the state is committed to boosting tourism in the state.

“Columbus Day holiday weekend is the busiest of the year in Vermont, with visitors heading to hiking trails, inns and lodges, museums, restaurants and other attractions across the entire state,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Given the importance of this industry to Vermont’s economy and job creation, I’m thrilled we’ve had such a strong year, and committed to doing what it takes to ensure visitors across the globe know how much Vermont has to offer.”

Gov. Shumlin noted that the state committed $310,000 to an advertising campaign designed to bring visitors from New York and Boston. More than 2.7 million tourists travel from New York and Massachusetts annually to Vermont, bringing to $370 million the annual spending by visitors. Included in the advertising package is an editorial, print and digital campaign, as well as broad marketing.

Outdoor recreation activity generates $2.5 billion in Vermont retail sales and services (12 percent of gross state product) annually. That sector alone results in $753 million in salaries and wages for 34,000 jobs – and $176 million in state tax revenue.

Well, promoting tourism is a good thing, but should Shumlin be “thrilled” about this:

Tourism Industry salary per job

The bulk of tourism industry jobs are not going to cover the cost of living in Vermont, at least not in the traditional sense of “living”, meaning owning a home, car, etc.  The stat above equates to $11/hour, and I’m fairly confident that the requirements to buy even a 2-bedroom condo anywhere in Vermont won’t be fulfilled by that kind of income.

In fact, if Peter was interested in pitching an industry to work in, he need look no further than the office building he sometimes works in for inspiration.  The government sector of Vermont’s economy has consistently higher earnings than the private sector.  From BLS.gov:

I'm noticing a trend here.

I’m noticing a trend here.

In fact, the annual difference between the salaries in the two sectors would at least cover the cost of a hot tub or a new snowmobile – if you’re on the right side of the two charts:

The bitter fruits of political victory.

The bitter fruits of political victory.

Part of the governor’s job is to cheerlead – so Shumlin’s going to tout “good” news, by hiding or conveniently ignoring the relevant data.  Regardless of the success of the tourism industry, it is an industry dominated by lower-paying jobs, not the kinds of jobs that create massive influxes of highly-educated professionals from out of state, looking to live the rest of their lives in the mountains of Vermont.  As has been recently discussed, Vermont’s labor outlook is dominated by lower-paying jobs with very minimal education requirements, and that’s not the mark of a vibrant and growing economy.  Ideally, the tourism sector should be the slowest-growing in terms of job opportunities, playing catchup to manufacturing, finance, professional services, etc., the sectors that are much higher-paying, stable, with significant career development potential, not because we want fewer jobs, but because we want real job growth in jobs that can support families trying to carve out their existence in the Green Mountains.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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