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Beer tourism draws 42,000 visitors to Kent County

Posted on October 21, 2015

Three Grand Valley economists found the economic impact of beer tourism in Kent County is more than $12 million a year.

Dan Giedeman, professor of economics; Paul Isely, associate dean and professor of economics; and Gerry Simons, professor of economics, conducted the study on beer tourism for Experience Grand Rapids, a marketing organization.

The faculty members surveyed tourists who traveled to Grand Rapids during the spring and summer of 2015 to visit microbreweries and festivals, specifically to drink beer. 

Isely said the impact of beer tourism on the local economy is significant. 

"More than 42,000 people who don't live in the area are coming to Grand Rapids to drink beer," said Isely. "They're spending $7 million, which has an impact of more than $12 million because it's bringing in new money — money that wouldn't be here if it weren't for the craft brew industry in town."

Isely said most of the people surveyed said they visited more than one brewery, which means they are coming because of the density of different types of craft brew in the area, not because of one big establishment.

"When they come, they spend a little more than $1.6 million on food, about $2 million on craft beer, about $2 million on lodging, and another $1 million on other things. That's impressive," said Isely. "It means the industry is starting to become a brand for the Grand Rapids area."

The study concluded that craft beer tourism in Kent County (a type of tourism that barely existed less than a decade ago) not only contributes to the growing perception of Grand Rapids as a thriving, vibrant community, but is also estimated to support or contribute:

• 171 additional jobs in Kent County

• $12.23 million in economic output in Kent County 

• Direct spending of $7.05 million

• 14,000 hotel nights at an average of $148 per night

•  42,246 visitors with more than 13,000 from outside Michigan

• An average of 3.7 breweries visited per beer tourist

• 12,100 individuals who visit at least five breweries

See the full study here.