Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Question That Never Goes Away!

Funny how  you still hear some very smart people scoff at “tourism” as “economic development.”  Tourism is so much the epitome of economic development that it is always a bit touchy to drill down and seek to understand a comment like that.

Veteran community developer and planner Nancy Thompson in Missouri writes and collaborates on a series of blogs at www.useful-community-development.org and she gets at the essence of economic development…"the definition of economic development should be those activities that cause a net gain of money flow into the community380698neonstoresign

Maybe the source of the comments is a preoccupation with only one type of economic development that dominated the first part of the last century…it is more “supply-side” focusing on attracting relocating businesses.

Tourism is “demand-side” economic development.  A community launches marketing activities centered hopefully around its distinct brand or character to draw the interest of visitors and they bring in money from outside the community to:

  • Sustain and retain local businesses and facilities,
  • Make new businesses and facilities feasible,
  • Absorb excess capacity ensuring quality of life for residents
  • Create and sustain jobs and personal income,
  • Sustain “place-based assets” and “sense of place” and,
  • Generate local tax revenue and tax base.

In essence tourism “adds value” to the local economy and that is the essence of economic development.

We heard a good deal this week on the growing importance of exports to GDP and “tourism” is in essence an export.  Visitors consume goods and services above and beyond those needed by locals.

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