Tourism is the primary growth industry in Branson. While Branson’s population is about 10,000 people, the city has many services that equal or surpass larger urban areas and can handle the needs of the eight million annual visitors traveling here.
There is a broad range of employment available, and many retirees find part-time work in the town’s many entertainment attractions and theaters. Where to Retire magazine selected Branson as a top retirement spot because of the scenic beauty and low cost-of-living. In addition to its appeal to retirees, there is a younger generation of residents who have found that Branson offers something for everyone including great secondary schools and two post-secondary colleges.
Branson has a rich history of more than a century when the first settlers populated the Ozarks region along the banks of the White River. When the Missouri-Pacific Railroad selected its north-south route through the Ozarks, it sparked the logging industry that established Branson as a thriving town.
The first tourists came to hunt and fish. Tourism began in earnest when Harold Bell Wright visited Branson in 1903, and wrote a book, “The Shepherd of the Hills.” It was an immediate hit, and people began traveling here to see the setting of the story. Recreation got a boost when two dams were built on the White River, forming Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake.
Branson’s music industry began in 1959 and has steadily grown, offering a variety of musical entertainment for every taste. And now there are numerous attractions, shopping, golf courses, fishing, outdoor recreation, dining, and much more.
Branson is widely known for its wholesome, family-friendly atmosphere, along with its pride in our veterans, and with a mild climate and four seasons, an affordable year-round recreation.
- 10,520 – Branson Population (2010 )
- 83,877 – Taney and Stone County Population (2010)
- 20.7 Square Miles
- $458,772,601,00 Total Assessed Property Value
- 200+ Shops/Retailers
- 35,000 Restaurant Seats
- 16,500 Hotel/Motel Rooms
- 12 Golf Courses (Several ranked nationally)
- 100 Shows
- 57,000+Theater Seats
Source: Branson/Lakes Area CVB (2014 Fact Sheet)
VISITOR INFORMATION: 2013
- 35.2% families
- 64.8% adults
- 78.5% travel by personal vehicle
- 7.5% travel by air
- 4.4% travel by RV/Camper
- Average age is 58.4
- 15.1% come 100 miles or less
- 27.7% come 101-300 miles away
- 27.3% come 301-650 miles away
- 29.9% come 650+ miles away
- On a 1 to 5 rating scale, visitor satisfaction measured 4.46
Source: Branson/Lakes Area CVB (2014 Fact Sheet)
VISITOR ACTIVITY PARTICIPATION: 2013
- 71.8% – Shopping
- 81% – Shows
- 24.6% Museums
- 22.8% – Lake/Outdoor Activities
- 28.1% – Theme Parks
- 3.8% – Golf
- 4.7% – Fishing
Time magazine ran an article on their “discovery” of Branson in August of 1991. That set off a chain reaction: The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and People Magazine soon followed. On December 8, 1991, “60 Minutes” proclaimed Branson the “live music capital of the entire universe.” There were only 22 theaters in operation, and today Branson has more than twice that many, due in part to that turning-point proclamation. Many agree that “60 Minutes” launched Branson into a new era of growth by revealing to the world the wonderful playground of fun and entertainment this small southwest Missouri town had become. Performers, visitors, developers, and new residents flocked to see what was going on. Throughout the 1990’s and into the new millennium, Branson not only saw tremendous growth in the number of theatrical offerings, but in the number of hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, housing developments, service businesses, and healthcare facilities. Over the next decade, such stars as Andy Williams, Mel Tillis, Mickey Gilley, the Lennon Sisters, the Osmond Brothers, and The Oak Ridge Boys took up residence in Branson, just to name a few.
In 2005, Silver Dollar City’s new PowderKeg explosive-launch roller coaster was named “best family thrill ride on the planet” by thrillride.com. That same year The Branson Convention Center and Hilton Hotel broke ground. The Branson League of Theater Owners and Show Producers raised over $120,000 with a telethon concert for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The City of Branson broke a 1993 record in new construction values, well over $120 million for the year. In 2006, the Branson Landing opened. Costing $420 million, this 95-acre lakefront development blends retail shopping, dining, luxury lodging, boardwalk, condominiums, a town plaza, several marinas, and nightlife into a dynamic waterfront setting. Other exciting developments in Branson include the multi-million dollar Titanic Museum and Chateau on the Lake Resort’s new $6 million European-style Spa Chateau, overlooking Table Rock Lake. Overlooking Lake Taneycomo and the Branson Landing, the new state-of-the art Branson Convention Center and adjoining 12-story Hilton Hotel opened in the fall of 2007. In 2008, groundbreaking also took place for the Sight & Sound Theatre, which features multi-million dollar productions with Biblical themes such as “NOAH-The Musical”
The Branson Airport, which is located approximately 8 miles south of Branson, began operation in May 2009. The terminal is 58,000-SF and has the capacity to handle more than 1 million enplanements annually. Individuals and groups flying into Branson have access to the auto-services on-site, as well as taxi and shuttle service into Branson. The airport also includes a general aviation facility to handle corporate and private aircraft.
The Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) is approximately 50 miles from Branson and serves all of Southwest Missouri with 70 daily flights connecting to eight international airports via six airlines. Offering flights to and from Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas/Ft Worth, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Memphis, Minneapolis, Orlando, Tampa and St. Louis and one stop service to 476 domestic cities and 40 international destinations.
In fact, Branson’s economy has enjoyed steady growth for many years with the past three years seeing the value of new construction surpassing $100 million each year. The city’s 1.5 percent sales tax revenue has grown steadily for more than a decade.
That revenue enables the city to build state-of-the-art streets and water and wastewater systems. It provides added value for residents including the $12 million RecPlex, a recreation/sports complex and water park, and the development of a 100-mile network of hiking and biking trails.
Tourism continues to be the primary industry, but several entities cooperate to ensure a well-rounded business base including the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community and Economic Development Advisory Council.
The city of Branson’s Economic Development department answers many queries from potential investors. And the Branson Commerce Park, now under construction, is a 200-acre master-planned mixed-use park for light industry, warehouse, showrooms, retail and 600 affordably priced homes for the workforce.
Recent projects include:
- Branson Landing, the $450-million downtown lakefront lifestyle center with shops, restaurants, condos, a public plaza, Fountains of Fire and a two-mile boardwalk.
- The $75 million Sight & Sound Theater features Christian Broadway musicals.
- Herschend Family Entertainment added the $8 million Grand Exposition of family-friendly rides at Silver Dollar City.
- The largest new retail project is Branson Hills Plaza with stores including Target, Home Depot, a Wal-Mart Supercenter and many more.
- Nearby is the 1,200-acre master-planned Branson Hills community anchored by the Tribute Golf Club dedicated to golfing legend Payne Stewart. This development is near the RecPlex and Branson schools, and the community offers housing from condominiums to custom homes.
- $155 million Branson Airport. The first privately financed and operated airport in the United States provides full commercial service.
- $1.9 million infill of the new Veterans Administration Clinic in Branson. The clinic will serve the needs of veterans from a broad, under-served region of Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas.
- $4 million expansion of the Branson Heart Center.
- $755,000 First Community Bank building.