“Economic development,” in its purest form, is the process of improving the quality of life for citizens by increasing the local tax base and economic well being of the community.
Of course, this is done by fostering and promoting investment in communities, which leads to additional jobs, which results in an increased population, which leads to the development of supporting retail, professional services, and activities.
The number one reason for travel is to visit friends and family. So the larger the population, the more tourism you’ll have. The second reason for travel is business. The more businesses you have, the more tourism you’ll have based on their visitors. And with the success of those two drivers, your activities and attractions will bring in leisure visitors, making you a well-rounded destination as a place to live, work, and play.
Here are the three reasons why tourism is the purest form of economic development:
1. People come, spend money and go home. If you attract the right visitors, you don’t need more police and social services; they impact your infrastructure very little; yet they support your retail shops, restaurants, hotels, and get to know you as a community. If visitors like what they see and experience, they tell their friends via Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. That’s free marketing and a third-party endorsement.
2. Tourism is the front door to your non-tourism economic development. Any site selector, investor, or commercial real estate firm will arrive in your community, as what? A visitor. With quality of life leading economic development, tourism provides the marketing and visuals that promote the best you have to offer in terms of nightlife, downtown, your amenities such as trails and parks, and your activities. Tourism showcases your community as a very desirable place to not only visit, but in which to live and work.
3. Tourism is a downtown’s best friend. The number one activity of visitors, in the world, is shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian-friendly, intimate setting: your downtown. This is typically not the reason they visit, but it is their number one activity once they arrive. While local residents provide the sales so retailers break even, tourism can provide the profit margin. A great downtown, over time, can be an attraction in itself. Tourism and downtowns should be joined at the hip.
Tourism is the purest form of economic development, but it is often seen as the ugly stepchild. Yet tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, can provide a quick return on your investment, and provides you with the marketing that showcases the best of what you have to offer.