At the end of this month I will be attending Southeast
Tourism Society's Marketing College. I'm looking forward to second year classes
that dive deeper into subjects that were introduced in the first year. The
curriculum arrived in my e-mail last week and I was pleased to see that there
will be a session on the economic impact of tourism. I was also pleased to
learn that the same professor of economics who presented a similar class last
year will be back to teach the advanced class. I admit that I have always been
interested in the subject of economics. It was a favorite subject in college.
In my opinion, the economic impact of tourism does not
get the respect it deserves except in a handful of places that are heavily
dependent on tourism, ie: Las Vegas, Orlando, Hawaii. That's unfortunate,
because visitors have a huge impact on destinations large and small all across
America. The communities that figure that out and invest appropriately in
tourism promotion are poised to benefit.
Among the things I learned at STS Marketing College last
year were a few new ways to explain the full economic impact of tourism on a
local economy. Traditionally, tourism professionals have reported their success in
terms of hotel occupancy rates, response rates to advertising, website hits,
and hotel lodging tax. Now that last item is something that local officials can
really appreciate. According to Professor Steve Morse from the University of
Tennessee, we need to communicate the impact of tourism in different terms — using the language that other economic development organizations use.
Visitor spending not only creates jobs in the usual travel-related
places like hotels, restaurants, museums, theme parks, but also in support
services like cab drivers, florists and many more. Tourism
spending deposits money directly into local coffers through hotel, rental car,
gasoline, meals and sales taxes. Those are easily measured and undeniable. But
it doesn't end there. There are indirect and induced impacts — concepts I
learned from Dr. Morse — of all that tourist spending. For example, hotels,
restaurants and museums purchase goods and services from their suppliers like
local farmers, interior designers, printers who produce their menus, etc., injecting even more money
into the economy. Everyone employed by the hotels, museums AND their suppliers
then spend their paychecks on goods and services, including everyday items like
groceries, furniture, insurance and getting braces for the kids' teeth. These indirect and induced
impacts show how businesses with no obvious connection to tourism do indeed
benefit by tourist spending in their community. I think sometimes tourism professionals are hesitant to talk about the indirect impacts of the spending. They should not be reluctant at all. Economics is all about understanding the full effect of financial activity.
For all those reading this blog who are employed in a
travel or tourism dependent position, be proud of your job. If you work for a business
that does not seem to be directly related to travel, now you know how money spent in your
community can reach you no matter what you do. If you’re a traveler,
spend freely knowing the positive benefit you will have on the local economy.