Tourists spent $5.9 billion on Long Island in 2017, up 4 percent over 2016, according to a new report.
In a 44-page study prepared for the state, the research firm Tourism Economics found that spending by visitors was almost evenly divided between Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Food and beverages accounted for 30 percent of expenditures followed by transportation, including air travel, the Long Island Rail Road, taxis and rental cars, at 23 percent, the report states.
Retail and service stations represented 16 percent of spending, and lodging, 15 percent.
Statewide, tourist spending totaled $67.6 billion, up 4.4 percent from 2016. The Island was No. 2 in spending after New York City among 11 state regions.
“Tourism on Long Island has been on an upward trajectory for the past several years,” said Kristen Jarnagin, CEO of Discover Long Island, the region’s main tourism promotion agency. “The 2017 spending increases outpaced expectations, and 2018 is on pace to be our best year since 2001, when tourism was at its peak.”
She and others said on Tuesday that more people are visiting the Island and opening their wallets because they feel confident about their financial future. There also has been increased advertising of area attractions, construction of new hotels and enhancements to ocean beaches and other destinations.
The report by Philadelphia-based Tourism Economics found that about 81,700 people work in tourism on Long Island. As a group, they earned $3.2 billion last year, or $39,164 on average.
Tourism jobs at hotels, restaurants, museums and other attractions accounted for about 6 percent of the Island’s total 2017 employment.
Tourists also paid $722 million in taxes last year, including state and local sales taxes on purchases and hotel/motel bed taxes. Without this revenue, the typical Long Island household would’ve paid an additional $776 in taxes, the research firm estimated.
Mark Irgang, a hotelier and president of the Long Island Hospitality Association, said the Hamptons, Montauk and wineries on the North Fork serve as visitor magnets. “Those areas continue to open new and eclectic restaurants that are driving locals and tourists alike to visit,” he said on Tuesday.
Irgang also said the tourism industry “seems to be doing well” this year “as gas prices are reasonable.”
Statewide, tourism is the third-largest private employment sector, with 938,800 jobs last year. If these positions were eliminated, the unemployment rate would jump from 4.7 percent to 12.9 percent, according to the report.
International visitors are a focus for both Discover Long Island and Empire State Development, the state agency that oversees the I Love NY tourism promotions. Spending by foreign travelers accounted for 30 percent, or $20 billion, of last year’s total. Canada represented about 2 percent of the spending.
ESD tourism director Ross D. Levi said the Island’s parks, wineries, golf courses and beaches support “jobs and small businesses from Jones Beach to Montauk.”