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Promote. Protect. Improve.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Google’s mantra used to be “don't be evil.”

But, what have they done to the relevance of libraries?

Uber never pretended to not disintermediate taxis…but they have.

And, tourism promotion and development has always been a Quality of Life play for those of us that work in that sector.

Except when it actually works the other way.

Barcelona recently passed a law prohibiting the development of any more hotels because the sheer number of visitors drawn to the destination is causing locals to flee the city. Several iconic sites around the world are throttling visits because of the degradation of heritage and ecological sites. And, an increasing number of American destinations have seen an escalation of letters to the editor saying, “no mas.”

A recent editorial in one beach destination’s local newspaper asked the chilling question…”is it time to tap the breaks” on tourism promotion? Another destination is watching closely as a pack of recently relocated retirees is running for City Council seats on a “no growth” platform.

Yeah, they got their slice of heaven…and it’s time to slam the door before others can have the same idea they had just a few years ago.

After all, as the “Halo Effect” quantified by Longwoods International suggests, visitors are more likely to move to a destination than non-visitors. So, it’s time to stop the visitors.

Which, of course, means stop the Destination Marketing Organization.

Never mind that, without these visitors, resident taxes will increase. Facts mean nothing to angry NIMBY’s. And, all those dollars going to the DMO could be so easily redeployed to develop Senior Centers and the like.

It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that destinations belong to residents first. And, when those residents grow weary of traffic congestion, long waits at restaurants and boorish behavior by an increasing number of visitors, it is their right to push back.

Indeed, it is increasingly the responsibility of the DMO to balance the interests of the business community with its residents. And, this will take a fundamental re-imagination of our role going forward.

It’s a concept so clear to the Myrtle Beach Chamber and CVB that the following words are emblazoned on its Board Room wall:
Promote. Protect. Improve.

In destinations where the storm clouds of resident discontent are brewing, the Destination Marketing Organization must be a primary player in community discussions on topics such as growth, sustainability and capacity. Words that, heretofor, have rarely been uttered in the same sentence when discussing local economies. But, today, we need to have that discussion, respectfully and honestly.

Tourism is typically driven by the word “more.” Can we learn to live with less, if it is the best thing for our community? We’re all about to find out.

And, as the debate takes center stage in successful visitor economies where residents have had enough, the rest of us need to pay close attention to how our peers manage the situation. Because, that bell a tolling? It may be for you.

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