At a time of economic doom and gloom, it's easy to forget that tourism still keeps many states afloat - to the tune of billions of dollars. As of 2009, tourism brought $704 billion to the United States, employing an estimated 17.4 million people. So which states rake in the biggest bucks from its visitors? Here's the top ten.

In Pictures: Vacation Savings Tips

1. California
The Golden State is the tourism powerhouse of America, generating $87.7 billion annually in 2009, and accounting for 851,000 jobs. With its national parks, tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and various theme parks, plus expansive beaches and wine country, California has a variety of tourist hotspots throughout the state. What's interesting to note is that Californians are their own largest pool of tourists - roughly 80% of visits are made by Californians themselves. (Despite it's strong tourism industry, all is not well in California. Find out more in Will California Go Bust?)

2. Florida
With its expansive coastline and favorable winter weather, it's not surprising that Florida comes in second on the list of states earning the most tourism dollars, grossing $70.5 billion. Disneyworld and its surrounding theme parks, Key West and Miami are just some of the many tourist attractions luring visitors from around the world. Tourism keeps 757,100 people employed in the Sunshine State.

3. New York
The state of New York makes about $54 billion annually from tourists visiting the state, keeping 423,000 people on the payroll. Visitors to New York City account for about half of this income, not surprisingly with the many iconic tourist attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty that New York City has to offer. Tourism makes up 4.9% of jobs in The Big Apple. (Find out where New York ranks as far as careers go in Top 10 Cities For A Career In Finance.)

4. Nevada
When you think of Nevada, you may first think of Las Vegas. The state has many other attractions, including Lake Tahoe, that help bring its total tourism income to $54 billion in 2008, a figure which has decreased slightly during the recession. Visitors to Nevada keep 489,000 people employed, accounting for a whopping 30% of its employment.

5. Texas
Texas does everything big, including tourism. The state took in roughly $51.8 billion in 2009, keeping 525,700 employed. Since Texas is so expansive, about half of its tourism income is generated by its own residents. Tourism provides employees of the industry with an annual $15.4 billion payroll. (Texas appears on another list. Check out 7 States With No Income Tax.)

6. New Jersey
The Garden State offers plenty to do for tourists. From Atlantic City's excitement to Princeton's culture, tourism brings in $36 billion annually. Visitors to New Jersey support 203,000 jobs directly as of 2009.

7. Georgia
Tourism is just peachy in Georgia, accounting for $34.8 billion in revenue and employing 241,500 people. Georgia visitors spend an average of $112 a day to visit state attractions like its many historic sites and popular beaches. Time will tell how the recent oil spill will impact Georgia tourism, but as of now, the state is still one of the top-grossing states when it comes to tourism in the United States.

8. Illinois
Tourism is big business in the Land of Lincoln, bringing in nearly $30.7 billion. Illinois gets most of its domestic visitors from within the state and its neighbors Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri. Tourism keeps 303,500 people employed - one in ten jobs in Illinois.

9. Pennsylvania
Nearly 140 million people visit Pennsylvania annually, bringing in $21.6 billion dollars. With its rich heritage, outdoor entertainment and festivals and wineries, Pennsylvania keeps 214,800 employed. Like many of the other states listed, visitors mostly come from within the state itself or from neighboring states like New York and New Jersey.

10. Virginia
Tourists in Virginia bring in an impressive $19.7 billion, visiting historic sites, theme parks and museums to employ 210,620 people. Tourism income doesn't end there, however, the state estimates that the tax revenue generated by tourism keeps many thousands of teachers and police officers employed every year - which is great news for the state's economy and employment.

The Bottom Line
These numbers are impressive, though it's important to note that most states saw a significant decline in tourism in 2009, costing jobs and tax revenue. States where tourism is a large source of income have started more aggressive advertising campaigns and updated websites to lure visitors and money back to their cities and towns. Since then, many states are showing signs of rebounding tourism - hopefully a sign of good things to come. (Don't have the money to take a trip? Check out 9 Summer Staycations That Feel Like Vacations.)

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: I-Spy, IPOs And iPhones.

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Muni California Mutual Funds

    Discover analyses of the top three California municipal bond mutual funds, and learn about their characteristics, historical performance and suitability.
  2. Investing News

    Austin Set to Rival Silicon Valley

    Over the years, Austin, Texas has lovingly embraced its quirky reputation with the slogan “Keep Austin Weird.” Today, the capital city is attracting several tech startups and investors, making ...
  3. Retirement

    The Cities Where the Ultra-Rich Retire in Florida

    Understand why the Florida communities of Miami Beach, Palm Beach and Key West serve as magnets for the ultra-rich retirees who descend on the state.
  4. Retirement

    The 5 Best Retirement Communities in Austin, Texas

    Discover five of the most desirable retirement communities for seniors located in the Austin/Georgetown metropolitan area in Texas.
  5. Home & Auto

    Read This Before Buying a Vacation Home with Friends

    Going in with friends to buy a vacation home will save you on the mortgage and expenses. But if there's conflict, it could end up costing your more.
  6. Personal Finance

    Top Resorts for Multigenerational Family Vacations

    After a week at one of these resorts that cater to families of all ages, you might swear off those exhausting road trips to Grandma’s for good.
  7. Retirement

    The 5 Best Retirement Communities in Sarasota, Florida

    Discover five of the most popular retirement communities in the Sarasota/Bradenton area of Florida, and why retirees are choosing that area for retirement.
  8. Retirement

    Just Retired? Check Out These Adventure Vacations

    Get out your bucket list. No matter what you're passionate about, there's an organization ready to lead the way. Here's a sampling.
  9. Budgeting

    How to Save Money on Your Disney Vacation

    Understand why Disney Parks are attractive vacation destinations and why they are expensive. Learn five money-saving tips for Disney vacations.
  10. Investing Basics

    The Top Five Public Railroad Stocks in the U.S.

    We offer a breakdown of the seven Class I railroads in North America based on their annual revenues.
  1. What are the warning signs of online hotel / travel booking scams?

    Travel booking scams ask travelers to book a vacation stay at a residential rental property that is fake or that belongs ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the best and worst states to pay taxes in?

    Most people can probably guess the two worst states for taxation in the U.S. – New York and California. The two best, Wyoming ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the cost of living difference between Texas and California?

    Texas and California are two of the largest states in the union, both in terms of population and in terms of geography. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Which States do not require a Representative to write the Series 63 exam?

    The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), (formerly the National Association of Securities Dealers), indicates ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  2. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  3. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  4. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  5. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  6. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!