It's no surprise that Lake of the Ozarks stands as one of the top travel destinations in the state of Missouri. The 87 year-old lake boasts as one the best recreational lakes in the country and covers an impressive 54,000 surface acres, stretches just over 92 miles and has more shoreline than the California coast.
It's no surprise that Lake of the Ozarks stands as one of the top travel destinations in the state of Missouri. The 87 year-old lake boasts as one the best recreational lakes in the country and covers an impressive 54,000 surface acres, stretches just over 92 miles and has more shoreline than the California coast. In terms of tourism dollars and economic impact, the numbers aren't bad either.
Here is a closer look at how tourism plays a part in the tri-county region and the state of Missouri.
Based on 2017 reports from the Missouri Division of Tourism, Camden County brought in a whopping $164,592,226 in total expenditures indicated by tourism-related standard industrial classification (SIC) codes. Miller County brought in $36,545,395; and Morgan County ended the year with $23,278,031. That's a total of $224,415,652 spent at Lake of the Ozarks during 2017.
To put that in perspective, the state of Missouri saw a total of $16.8 billion in total economic impact with Jackson County (Kansas City) coming in as the big taker with over $2.1 billion and St. Louis City with over $1.4 billion.
Founded in 1932, the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) has been doing its best to market the tri-county region to the rest of the country. Due to a 1993 lodging tax initiative which allowed the non-profit organization to collect a 3% profit, the CVB sees an annual marketing budget that ranges around the $1.5 million dollar mark. That money is primarily used to market the lake via newspaper inserts, radio commercials, Cardinals Baseball jumbo tron videos, billboards, boat shows and social media outlets.
CVB Executive Director Tim Jacobson notes that the majority of tourists to the lake come from St. Louis, Kansas City, central and southern Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska.
Based on local CVB research the primary attractions are shopping, boating, fishing and state parks. "We definitely have a lot to offer visitors in ways of shopping, water activities and scenic beauty," stated Jacobson. "What we need to remember is if it weren't for that lake, none of what we have would be here."
The CVB also does its best to extend the season through promoting 24 special events and festivals; as well as taking care of its 600+ member base.
"Tourism is solidified big business in the state of Missouri, only second behind agriculture," stated Jacobson.
Another helpful and unexpected form of free advertising for the area came via the new Netflix series 'Ozark' which was created by long-time visitor and famous writer, Bill DuBuque. The popular series stars actors Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. While there was some initial mixed reaction with the release of the series, Jacobson said that website searches have seen an explosion in numbers.
"Millions of people have searched online for Lover's Leap, which can be seen in the first episode of Ozark," stated Jacobson. The series also inspired the opening of a new pub on the Bagnell Dam strip named after the title character, Marty Byrde's.
Jacobson also stated that the area has so much to offer in ways of touting 13 golf courses, 200 restaurants, 60 on-water eateries, 25 waterfront pools with service, numerous places to shop, plenty of hotel rooms and over 50 marina's.
Camdenton Chamber of Commerce Director, Trish Creach, recognizes tourism as an economic driver in the region that creates jobs, supports the local tax base and aids in the development of the infrastructure, while preserving the local culture.
"At the Lake of the Ozarks, we have even seen our visitors become our future homeowners- so the appeal of this region for vacation and relocation is also significant," stated Creach.
Pointing out job creation in the region, it comes as one of the most important pieces of the tourism puzzle. According to the Missouri Division of Tourism, tri-county employment numbers show Camden County with 4130 tourism related jobs; Miller County with 703 and Morgan County with 546.
There's no doubt that George Tucker, owner of Tucker's Shuckers Oysters & Tap on the Bagnell strip and two other popular lake eateries and pubs, sings the praises of visitors to the area.
"Without tourists, I don't think any of us in business would survive," stated Tucker. Adding that he and his employees start preparing five months in advance for the throngs of lake visitors during the summer months.
"Tourist season is what our staff waits for, it's when they get to work overtime and bring good money home to their families," stated Tucker.
Celebrating 30 years in business this summer, Country Crossroads Gifts owner, Selynn Barbour, says that the start of the summer season is a homecoming of sorts for her Osage Beach locale.
"We always look forward to the season, because we see so many repeat customers that keep coming back year after year and some of them become just like family," stated Barbour. "Tourists are extremely valuable not only to us, but to all area businesses and to our communities."
While Tucker and Barbour appreciate the tourists who visit their businesses during the summer, they also feel their loyal local customer base throughout the year is important as well. With no shortage of things to do around the Lake of the Ozarks- tourism continues to be a thriving and profitable force for the region.