Did you know that the last time you spent a night in a beachfront bed and breakfast or enjoyed a seafood meal overlooking the ocean, you were supporting an industry that employs over two million people in this country? Chances are you didn’t realize that your much-needed vacation was as important to the national economy as it was to your own well-being.
One look at any of our country’s coastlines, and tourism’s allure is understandable. The ocean is our provider, from food and transportation to the endless opportunities for enjoyment that many Americans work so hard to achieve. Anyone who has been on a honeymoon in Hawaii, a fishing expedition in the Gulf of Mexico, or seen the sun set over Big Sur will tell you that they wouldn’t give those moments up for all the money in the world. And while those experiences are priceless, they also happen to contribute to the $116 billion that ocean tourism, in turn, contributes to the economy each year.
As bountiful as the ocean is, so are the ways people enjoy it. Nature-based tourism is at an all-time high. Hundreds of millions of people travel to see coral reefs every year, and some of the most spectacular are in those that are protected in national marine sanctuaries.
Equally popular are the fish and mammals that call our ocean and coasts home. People will travel far and wide to get eye-to-eye with a sea turtle, dolphin, or whale. For many Americans, a trip to Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve, spotting curious harbor seals from the beach and watching Orcas chase prey is a dream come true. For others, a week of rest and relaxation at a secluded Puerto Rico resort is as good as it gets.
Ocean Tourism and Recreation: Top Five Contributors.