Waves of Change: Planning for New England's Healthy Tourism Economy | Conservation Law Foundation

Waves of Change: Planning for New England’s Healthy Tourism Economy

Hannah Dean


One Million DollarsWhales, fish, clean beaches, healthy oceans – they all create jobs and huge economic benefits for our region. Just like many other resources, marine wildlife and New England’s ocean are under extreme pressure and could benefit from good planning in order to thrive.

Regional Ocean Planning is a process which can help us better coordinate the increasing demands on our ocean resources while taking care to ensure the health of the things we love – and the things that people love to visit. Need proof? Whale watching is not just a wonderful way to spend a few hours – it’s also a great driver for our coastal economy. Consumers value whale watching  at about $60 per day, beach trips at $20 per day, and a day of recreational fishing at over $200 per day. Need more proof? Here are just a few more examples of how tourism is good for our economy:

  • In 2010 direct spending on travel and tourism in Massachusetts alone was over $15 billion.
  • Marine recreational fishing trips and related expenses generated about $1.8 billion for the New England region in 2009.
  • In Rhode Island, Tourism is the state’s fourth largest industry, generating over 66,000 jobs and $4.9 billion in spending as of 2009.
  • Even with only 18 miles of ocean beach New Hampshire’s tourism industry is the state’s second largest.
  • In Massachusetts, without the jobs generated by the tourism industry, state unemployment would have been as high as 12% in 2010, instead of 8.5%.

Nationwide, despite a still recovering economy, travel and tourism generated new jobs 84% faster than the rest of the U.S. economy in 2010.  Visitors have long traveled to New England to see coasts, local agriculture, forests, and natural landscapes, a history that stretches back to the early 1800s.  In rural New England, tourism jobs now exceed jobs generated by farming and forestry, and tourism constitutes the largest industry in northern New England.

And many of these tourism jobs are on or near the shore. Coastal zone jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector make up around a tenth of total coastal zone employment in New England states.

Percentage Total Employment Generated in the Leisure and Hospitality Sector in Coastal Zone Counties (Data from the National Ocean Economics Program):



New Hampshire


Rhode Island




















Clearly, our natural resources are good for business. But tourism jobs can’t be generated without whales and fish, without the healthy marine and coastal ecosystems where they live, and without clean beaches and water to swim in. Better ocean planning will help keep our economy thriving, and that’s something we can all support.

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