HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – The tourism created by the Hattiesburg Zoo has a huge impact on the local economy. Annually, the zoo brings out 220,000 guests.

Fifty-one percent of the zoo’s visitors are from the Hattiesburg area. The zoo is owned by the city, but it’s operated by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. The commission took over 10 years ago, saving $1.2 million annually.

“Last year, the Hattiesburg Zoo contributed visitor spending by $37.6 million, so that’s $37.6 million that would not have been in Hattiesburg if Hattiesburg didn’t have a zoo. And those are measures we use that tell us are we doing our job in bringing new money to Hattiesburg,” said Rick Taylor with the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.

Only 11 percent of all zoos in the world are financially self-sustaining. The Hattiesburg Zoo is in that 11 percent. The growth of the zoo over the last t10 years is a testament to the growth of the overall city, according to the Area Development Partnership.