Travelers in Kings County spent $153 million in 2015, supporting $46 million in local earnings, creating 1,870 local jobs and generating $12 million in local and state tax revenue.
That’s according to a county-by-county report released this week by Visit California, a nonprofit organization that promotes California on behalf of the state’s tourism industry.
The report looked at income generated by restaurants, retail stores, motels/hotels, gas stations, and other types of businesses that sell goods and services to travelers.
The money visitors spend produces receipts at these businesses, which in turn employs people.
Taxes are generated through sales taxes paid by travelers and through property taxes paid by people whose jobs are supported by travel in Kings County.
The report indicated that a large chunk — $131 million — of the $153 million in total 2015 travel-related spending in Kings was destination-related, meaning at particular locations in Kings that are big tourism draws.
The report didn’t specify what those locations were.
Local experts, however, identified some of the top draws as Superior Dairy, the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino and Thursday Night Market Place.
Superior Dairy, though small in size, pulls in a huge number of tourists virtually year round, coming from all points of the compass and from multiple locations throughout the Central Valley and the state, according to Superior Dairy Manager James Wing.
“We get people from all over the place,” Wing said.
Wing said it’s common to get visitors coming from Fresno on Amtrak throughout the year, but particularly in the summer, when tourists pour in daily.
“Tourism is really important for our business,” he said. “Everything is word of mouth.”
Wing said he gets a lot of people coming from Naval Air Station Lemoore. He also said that people who were formally stationed at NASL but have moved on often return with their families to visit.
“It’s always consistent,” Wing said of tourists coming to Superior. “When they come here, it’s always a nostalgic kind of place. It takes you back to when you were young.”
Part of the tourist element is because multiple generations of the same family have mini-reunions at Superior when out-of-town family members are visiting.
“People just keep returning,” Wing said.
Superior is also a typical stop for school buses full of kids.
Children ride the carousel next to the old courthouse, take a ride through downtown on Freddie the Fire Truck and end up with a scoop of ice cream at Superior.
On Tuesday, first-grade students, parents and teachers from Fresno Christian School were enjoying a mild day in Civic Park after their Superior experience.
“It’s just an annual trip for the kids,” said Fresno parent Heather Creamier. “It’s very quaint, and the park is actually safe. It’s old-fashioned.”
Inside Superior on Tuesday, Visalia residents Gretchen and Ulrich Field said they usually stop off at the ice cream parlor on their way back from Tachi Palace or from the coast.
“Not every town has an old ice cream parlor,” said Ulrich Field. “It’s the atmosphere. It’s still that small-town feel.”
Other downtown Hanford destinations and events pull in tourists.
Another draw is Thursday Night Market Place, now a firmly established tradition in its 16th year.
“I would expect that probably 25 percent of the people who attend are from out of town,” said Main Street Hanford Executive Director Shelly Talbert.
Main Street Hanford runs the Market Place every year as a way to attract people to downtown.
At two other annual Main Street events, Witches Night Out and the Blues and Roots Festival, Talbert estimated that 50 percent of attendees are from out of town.
“I think tourism is huge,” Talbert said. “I think we have the perfect situation here with our historic downtown and the Amtrak [station].”
In Lemoore, Chamber of Commerce CEO Jenny MacMurdo said Tachi Palace is the biggest attraction for visitors.
“It’s probably the major reason for [tourism] in Lemoore,” she said. “It draws a ton of groups.”