Direct Economic Impact of Wakulla Springs: The Model
In Chapter 2 dealing with the economic importance of Ichetucknee Springs, we developed an economic model in which to calculate the spending, employment and wages generated by visitors coming from outside the area of economic impact. We wished to see how much economic activity and benefits are generated to the springs by having individuals visit the area (e.g., county) surrounding the park. The model will be identical for all four springs considered in this report. The impact of visitors is based upon springs attendance and a sampling of the spending habits of these visitors to the springs in question. Spending or sales to these visitors were also broken down into the kinds of goods and services (i.e., industries) supported in the surrounding area by these purchases. Since the model or framework in which to develop these basic economic impact variables for the springs in question has been explained in some detail in Chapter Two, we shall not repeat it here. We advise the reader to return to Chapter Two if he/she needs a detailed discussion of the general model applied to Wakulla Springs in this Chapter. A reader not interested in the technical model may skip such sections and find the numbers reflecting the sales (expenditures); wages; employment and a breakdown of the kinds of industries benefiting from such spending in Wakulla Springs State Park and around the county.
Estimation of the Direct Economic Impact of Wakulla Springs
During 2002, a survey of non-resident visitors to Wakulla Springs State Park was initiated to meet the objectives this study. Residents were confined to anyone using the park that lived in Wakulla County. People attending the springs were first identified as either residents or non-residents. The latter were called “visitors” with reference to people coming from outside the economic area under consideration (i.e., Wakulla County). This was the same method employed in Chapter 2 dealing with the economic impact of Ichetucknee Spring State Park. In total, 340 visitors were interviewed to develop an economic profile to use in conjunction with attendance to obtain the total economic impact on Wakulla County discussed in some detail above. Consider Table 3.3.
Estimation of the Direct Economic Impact of Visitors Associated
with Wakulla Springs, Florida, Fiscal Year 2001-2002
In fiscal year 2002, 180,793 individuals were attracted to the Wakulla Springs State Park. From our sampling, it was estimated that about 70% of these individuals could be designated as visitors from outside Wakulla County. Thus, in Table 3.3, it is estimated that nearly 127 thousand Wakulla Springs visitors injected money into the local economy. These visitors were divided into five classifications based primarily on accommodation mode with one category included especially for day visitors from outside of Wakulla County. According to our sample, the two prime accommodation modes were (1) staying with friends and family and (2) hotel and motels, constituting about 86% of all visitors sampled. The Wakulla Springs Lodge is primarily the one providing one of the most prominent amenities of the park. There was not much variance found in party size to Wakulla Springs averaging about 4-5 individuals shown in Table 3.3. Parties of visitors stayed from one to nearly five days (i.e., condominiums).
Of interest, spending per party day varied from $191 for those that camped to $453 for those staying in the hotels and motels in Wakulla County. It should be noted that to be included in the economic impact, a visitors’ primary objective must be to see the amenities of the Springs. Thus, one could camp outside the Springs, but still be counted as a by-product of primarily attending the Springs. As a group, visitors spent about $409 per party and $89 per person day. It should be noted that spending per party and person by visitors is about double that found in Ichetucknee Springs in Chapter Two. This is a reasonable finding given that Wakulla Springs contains an historic lodge which is an attraction in itself. At the end of our economic analysis of the four springs in northern and central Florida, we shall compare the spending among the springs as well as our finding with other studies in this area.
The economic model used to estimate the economic impact of Wakulla Springs-related visitors on Wakulla County was described extensively in Chapter 2 dealing with Ichetucknee Springs. Table 3.3 contains the necessary information to estimate the economic impact defined as the estimated spending, wages, and employment generated by visitors to the Wakulla Springs State Park. Spending by visitors is a function of attendance, length of stay per visitor in the area and spending per individual. In addition, we must know what commodities are purchased by visitors in order to estimate tourist-related wages and employment. All of these computations are easily implemented by the use of a fairly complicated spreadsheet analysis which can be made available to park researchers.
At the bottom of Table 3.3, the end result of these rather complicated computations are shown by accommodation mode and also include day visitors. For the year 2002, it is estimated that Wakulla Springs-related visitors spent $22.19 million in Wakulla County. This is very close to our estimated total spending by visitors to Ichetucknee Springs (i.e., $22.7 million). The latter springs has about a third more visitors than Wakulla Springs; however, we have indicated that spending per visitor day is about twice that found by research presented in Chapter Two for Ichetucknee Springs. Based upon the kind of spending by visitors (e.g., shopping; restaurants; hotels, etc), it was estimated that this generated $4.33 million in salaries and wages supporting 347 jobs. Such jobs are largely part-time and low skilled based upon the kind of spending by visitors which is true throughout Florida where tourism is the number one industry in terms of employment and wages. Dividing wages by employment generated by visitors to Wakulla Springs, the annual wage rate of those working in the visitor sector averaged only $12,478 per year.
Estimation of Wakulla Springs Visitors by Category in
Wakulla County, Florida, 2002
Food & Beverages (Restaurants)
Food & Beverages (Groceries)
Note: Aggregate expenditures for all modes including Hotels/Motels; Friends/Families;
Campgrounds; Condominiums plus Day Visitors to Wakulla Springs Park.
Table 3.4 shows the distribution of spending by all visitors based upon the overall spending pattern. Each visitor surveyed was asked to provide information about their spending according to the eight commodities shown in Table 3.4. These commodities, as expected, range from lodging to local shopping. The four largest categories of spending in Table 3.4 are lodging ($4.01 million); all other ($3.99 million); shopping ($3.59 million) and restaurants ($3.42 million) representing $15.01 million which computes to over two thirds of all spending. The existence of the Wakulla Lodge (i.e., hotel) probably stimulates the spending on this category of lodging. These spending categories represent the benefactors of having Wakulla Springs State Park in Wakulla County.
What is the relative contribution of Wakulla Springs to the economy of Wakulla County? In 2000, Wakulla County generated $126 million in wage and salary disbursements supporting 4,648 full and part time jobs. Wakulla Springs State Park contributes about 3.4% of wages and salaries ($4.33 milllion/$126 million), but 7.5% of total employment (347/4,648). In terms of jobs, Wakulla Springs is a fairly substantial part of the Wakulla County economy. As pointed out in the earlier discussion above, we indicated that the leading firm in Wakulla County or General Dynamics (i.e., Saint Marks Powder Division) employs about 275 persons, which would put this firm in second place in Wakulla County. Of course, jobs with General Dynamics probably pay considerably higher wage rates because of the highly technical skills demanded in this firm. In addition, such jobs with General Dynamics are likely to be fulltime rather than part time, which is obvious at Wakulla Springs by looking at Figure 3.2 showing the seasonal pattern of attendance at the park. Finally, the growth in Wakulla Springs State Park adds jobs to the economy of Wakulla County. Although largely part time and low wage jobs, they should be welcome to keep the entire labor force almost fully employed. There are many counties in the Suwannee River Basis (e.g., Hamilton, Suwannee, Madison, etc), which would welcome such jobs to a labor force that is underemployed. This was discussed in Chapter Two where we pointed out that the participation rate in Suwannee County, for example, is evidence that this county needs more jobs of any nature to reduce “disguised unemployment” which is roughly measured by how low the participation rate is for a given labor force. This topic will be revisited in Chapter 6 on our comparison of the findings from all four Springs on the agenda.