Cultural Tourism on the Rise in Pinellas County

October 18, 2019 |Written by Tiffany Razzano

Cultural Tourism on the Rise in Pinellas County

A growing industry throughout the United States, arts tourism is on the rise in Pinellas County.

When more than 40 artists showed up for a Creative Pinellas-hosted think tank on the arts and local tourism at Residence Inn SpringHill Suites Clearwater, it drove home what the arts agency already knew: not only is arts tourism on the rise in Pinellas County, but also artists in the community want to learn how to capitalize on this growth.

“Visitors from all over the country and around the world know us for our beautiful beaches and our amazing arts and cultural scene,” says Barbara St. Clair, executive director of Creative Pinellas. “That’s our brand. This growth of arts tourism combined with the welcoming nature of this community provides the perfect setting for mutually beneficial partnerships between artists, art organizations, the tourism industry and the business sector.”

As more tourists base their travel choices on arts and culture options in destinations of interest, it makes sense for Pinellas County businesses – from restaurants and hotels to local shops – to connect with area artists. 

And the numbers speak for themselves. According to Americans for the Arts, an organization dedicated to cultivating the arts in the United States, 116 million Americans say they travel for cultural purposes each year. International visitors also make an impact, according to the organization. The number of foreign visitors who visit art galleries and museums while visiting the United States increased by 8 percent between 2005 and 2015.

Local statistics are just as compelling. The Visit St. Pete/Clearwater 2018 Visitor Profile Study shows that the average arts-and-culture-driven visitor has an average stay of 2.6 days and spends $80.73 per person daily and focuses their trip on arts and cultural offerings in the region.

The report goes on to state that 88.4 percent of these arts-loving tourists visit regional museums, 76.7 percent grab a bite to eat at dine-in restaurants and 25 percent shop at local retailers while they’re here.

Meanwhile, the study showed that families spend a bit less on average—$76.21 per person— and stays 4 days, regional arts and culture offerings figure low in their plans during their visit.

Additionally, Benjamin Friedman, a market intelligence specialist with Pinellas County Economic Development, reports that the arts have a $1.96 billion impact on the local economy each year. The arts are also responsible for 4.3 percent of gross regional product and $2.3 billion in local sales. Currently, there are 1,949 arts-related businesses in the county, comprising 5.8 percent of all businesses in Pinellas. 

Creative Pinellas recognizes the impact the arts has on tourism and the local economy and works to empower area artists so they can benefit from this growing industry.

“As Arts and Culture Outreach Manager, my focus is to strengthen the economic impact of the arts by connecting visitors, artists, and civic and business leaders through creative programs and collaborations,” says Leigh Davis with Creative Pinellas. “With such a dynamic community, there is a way for everyone to engage and for visitors to enhance their experience through arts and culture. Unique, personalized experiences can result in longer stays, greater financial impact for local businesses, word-of-mouth advertising and repeat visitors.  

Davis welcomes feedback and ideas on the Arts & Tourism Initiative and can be reached at

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