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Lake hoping for sunny tourist season

Inquiries from boat shows, conferences are up, officials say

A family relaxes at Public Beach 2 in Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

A family relaxes at Public Beach 2 in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Photo by Samantha Edmondson.

The official start of the summer season is just days away, and Lake of the Ozarks area officials are “cautiously optimistic” about the forecast for tourism this year.

A number of factors — from consumer confidence in the economy to gas prices to the stock market — can affect tourism numbers in the lake area, says Jim Divincen, Tri-County Lodging Association administrator.

But the biggest deterrent simply can be the weather, he says.

“We have found that the number one reason people cancel a trip to the lake is what they hear on their local forecast,” Divincen said. “So any expectations we have for the number of visitors we’ll get during the season is always tempered by a caution about what we can expect from Mother Nature.”

Tim Jacobsen, administrator of the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau, said his staff attends six to eight trade conferences each year to advertise the lake area.

“Indicators are positive for the year based on the number of inquiries the CVB has experienced through direct calls and e-mails to our office,” Jacobsen said. “And, the people who attended the boat shows in Kansas City and St. Louis and several other conferences seemed to show more interest in the area than they have in recent years.”

How much of an economic engine is tourism for the lake?

For each four-person party that comes to the lake, about $1,078 is spent per visit, according to the Missouri Department of Tourism, and each visitor to the lake will make 1.74 trips to the area each year.

Last year, 22 percent of visitors surveyed said that it was their first trip to the lake.

Sixty-nine percent of the lake’s visitors said they came specifically for a vacation getaway; and nine out of 10 visitors stayed a total of 4.4 nights.

Including return visits, between 4 million and 4.5 million people visit the lake area in a year. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources places the number of visitors to Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka State Parks alone at nearly 1.9 million.

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