Tourism continues to be big business in Somervell County findings from a recent study show.

Last week, during the Glen Rose-Somervell County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Billy Huckaby, director of the Glen Rose Convention and Visitors' Bureau (CVB), welcomed Roger Hanagriff of Hanagriff & Associates Consulting, Inc. to present an assessment on tourism's impact on the local economy.

Huckaby explained that the CVB and Somervell County partnered several years ago to fund a study on visitors' spending in the area, saying "tourism is the greatest business in the world and we wanted to put a value on it."

Based out of Huntsville, Hanagriff says he has conducted numerous impact studies in communities which rely on visitors and the dollars produced by the tourism industry.

Citing statewide data collected by his firm, Hanagriff said the first step in a local study is to gather statistics from local events and the revenue generated by hotels and attractions.

The consultant said the study involved reviewing research and data available for the state and region, as well as surveys collected from 303 visitors to events at the Somervell Expo, The Promise and other community events.

"When people come to a town, 16 percent of expenditures are on hotels - that's the kind of person who spends the most money on their trip to a community," said Hanagriff.

Presenting his findings in a digital slide show, the consultant showed that major hotel development locally created a spike in revenues in 2004-05, and cited increases revolving around seasonal events.

Statewide, tourism is a $54 billion industry, increasing from approximately $30 billion in 1994 to its present levels, said Hanagriff.

The largest expense incurred during a trip is ground transportation and fuel (27 percent of the total), Hanagriff explained. Other expenses gathered from statewide averages include 16 percent on accommodations, 19 percent on food and 17 percent on retail sales. The highest spending type of visitors are those who choose to stay in hotels during their trips, he said.

"Seasonality for tourism in Glen Rose does exist," Hanagriff explained. "In 2005, we saw a big jump after several hotels were added in the community. Hotels are a very important aspect of your tourism industry."

Locally, Glen Rose hotels annually generate approximately $1,700 in revenues per resident - a finding that led all area communities, Hanagriff said. His findings showed Granbury, although a larger city, hotel revenues amounted to less per resident than Glen Rose at $1,405 per person.

Other communities cited in the impact study were Stephenville ($344), Cleburne ($164), Meridian ($107) and Hico ($18). On the other end of the spectrum - and Texas' highest generator of hotel revenue per resident - was Port Aransas, where accommodations in the beachfront community generated approximately $73,000 per person annually.

Hanagriff concluded that "there's a lot of hotel activity in a town this size" and included a graph that correlated local hotel revenues to events held at the Expo center. The chart showed peaks when events were being hosted at the Expo center, but showed a sharp decline in July 2007 when just two events were held.

"A graph was made with the number of Expo events, knowing that it draws big crowds and is an important aspect in Glen Rose's tourism industry," said Hanagriff. "The number of events at the Expo correlate directly with hotel revenue, dropping and rising with more or less events. I found it interesting that the number of Expo events affected hotel revenue and had a relationship."

Hanagriff also graphed local hotel revenues from 2001-07, which show steady growth in revenues each year as new hotels were built in Glen Rose. The peak was noticed last year, in the second and third quarters, topping $1.2 million for the first time in late summer.

Across Texas, Hanagriff said the state average for a traveler's expense on hotel stays was 16 percent of their total trip's cost. Locally, visitors to Glen Rose were spending approximately 25 percent of their travel budgets on accommodations.

"The results show when someone comes to Glen Rose, they're staying in hotels and it may say that room rates are a little higher than in other communities," said Hanagriff.

The study also included survey results compiled by Hanagriff & Associates, showing the average stay of visitors to Glen Rose was 2.2 days. The average travel group size was determined to be 4.31 individuals and the average distance traveled to Somervell County was 147 miles.

Hanagriff also said that 73 percent of visitors surveyed had been to Glen Rose and Somervell County during a previous trip. Sixty-six percent surveyed said they dined a local eateries, while 39 percent reported they shopped in Glen Rose and 72 percent purchased at least one item at a community event.

The consultant urged those attending the luncheon, many of whom are business owners, to entice visitors to shop while they're in town. "When you put on an event, you must tie in shopping outlets with venues. Any way you can combine events with shopping, there's going to be an increase in revenues and visitors the next time around."

In all, the consultant found that the local value of hotel revenues was $4.37 million in 2007 and direct expenditures by visitors totaled $17.2 million last year.

Hanagriff concluded that the estimated value of direct visitor spending per person in Glen Rose was more than $6,000 - more than two times the state average, which was found to be $2,700 per resident in Texas.

"Any resident who says tourism is not a big deal and we shouldn't spend money on attracting visitors to Glen Rose, then we need them to cough up $6,730 each," said Hanagriff, citing the impact of visitors to the local economy.