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Tourism Really is About Small Businesses

Town 2After delivering a presentation recently a city official challenged me on the notion that tourism in his small city was “a business of small businesses”. I quickly convinced him of this obvious fact by reviewing the “mom and pop” motels and restaurants listed in his city’s local visitors guide. How could this escape him?

A few weeks ago while researching the economic value of beaches, I discovered the following quote from Dr. James R. Houston of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Perhaps Americans do not appreciate the importance of tourism to the national economy because 98% of the 1.4 million U.S. tourism-related businesses are classified as small businesses, and this makes the industry extremely fragmented”, Dr. Houston said. That’s so true!

I am sure that Dr. Houston was referring to the number of enterprises and not the volume of revenue generated. Nevertheless, while many communities and city officials do recognize the value that well planned tourism can bring to them, many are failing to grasp the fundamentals and their communities are leaking buckets of potential income every week.

Tourism is often dismissed because it doesn’t fit with the general thinking about economic development by local officials. It then follows that tourism doesn’t receive sufficient consideration when it comes to government policies, infrastructure and investment. In the future, successful destinations will be those that treat their tourism-related businesses as  components of a series of experiential themes or clusters. Economic development marketers have been using industry clusters for decades.  For tourism enterprises this provides opportunities for increased collaboration, improved visitor experiences, increased profits and more opportunities to build economic growth through expanding existing businesses. It may also help in gaining a stronger, more unified voice and new found political clout.

Sponsored by Rural Tourism Assessments

 

Bill Baker

Bill BakerBill Baker

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