13.7 million visitors generated $838M in spending

According to new research by Longwoods International, commissioned by Catch Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines region welcomed 13.7 million visitors in 2016, representing a new record for Iowa’s capital city. That number was up almost 5% (or roughly 600,000 visitors) from 2015, and overnight trips to Greater Des Moines are up nearly 10% over the past five years. All told, visitor spending accounted for a record $838M in spending in 2016, with lodging accounting for the largest chunk of overnight spending (followed by food and beverage) and retail being the primary expenditure for day trips.

Des Moines continues to over-index relative to the national average in activity areas such as brewery visits, festivals/fairs, concerts, museums and sports. This aligns with the interests of the coveted Millennial and Gen X travel segments, as evidenced by the 6% visitation increase from 2015 in the 18-44 age group.  

“Des Moines has always had the perception of being a great place to raise a family, but people are finding that it’s a great place to visit as well,” said Greg Edwards, President and CEO of Catch Des Moines. “The population boom and influx of young professionals has meant more restaurants, retail, attractions and conventions; and more visiting friends and family who discover Des Moines and spread the word.”

Among other findings:

  • Visitors are leaving happy (and full) - Overall visitor satisfaction is up 11% from 2015, with increases across the board, including quality of food (up 14%), attractions/sightseeing (up 11%) and value for the money (up 9%).

  • Visitors bring big bucks - Visitor spending generated $2B in economic impact for the region, including indirect and induced spending. Visitor spending also generated $32.8M in tax revenue.

  • They also create jobs – Tourism-generated employment reached 17,200 jobs for the region.

  • On the road again - 80% of visitors traveled by car or truck, which is 13% above the national average.

  • If you build it, they will come – The top cities that Des Moines drew from for overnight trips were Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Dubuque, Kansas City, Omaha, Chicago and Minneapolis.

“It just goes to show the economic impact that tourism has on our region and how we’ve been able to leverage the growth of the area to help shift outsider perceptions,” said Edwards. “Greater Des Moines is being positioned as a practical and appealing urban getaway for our Iowa neighbors and surrounding states, and the research validates what our people have long known: people really love it here.”

Des Moines Draws Record Number of Visitors to Region