Tourism is the largest industry in the world – and yet it is still called the “invisible industry”. Well – maybe it isn’t invisible – but it is hidden in plain site. Tourism and the visitor economy is right under our noses – but we don’t recognize it.
In some ways this lack of awareness starts in school. For example, as a school kid, we went on field trips and camps and we often seemed to find ourselves at farms set up to welcome students and show them agriculture. While I learned about the virtues of cows and pineapples ( I lived in Queensland, Australia) no one ever said anything about how visitors (like me) contribute to economic well being. I was a tourist and I didn’t even realise it..
It can come as no surprise that the tourism industry has such a great task to inform policy makers and politicians – not to mention community members – about the value of our work. In most cases we are starting from “scratch”.
Which brings me to the fantastic work of Indiana Office of Tourism Development. Mark Newman, the CEO of IOTD, recognized the importance of building a culture of tourism early in his tenure and worked with educators on the development of a grade 4 curriculum that recognizes the connection between tourism and social studies.
That’s strategic thinking in tourism – honest to goodness !
Sustainability and Social Responsibility are are the driving force behind the Top 5 trends in restaurants in the U.S. according to the National Restaurant Association. The top food trends, according to the National Restaurant Association Culinary Forecast 2015 are locally sourced meat, seafood and produce and environmental sustainability.
Why do DMO managers need to know this ? Because this trend is helping them meet their goals of improving the economic and social well being of their destination communities.
We are all becoming familiar with infographics touting the economic benefits of tourism. An important way to improve the economic impact is to reduce what economists call “leakage” – the money that leaves the community. Locally sourced restaurants and “farm to table” restaurants keep money in the community ! The money tourists spend at “farm to table” restaurants does “leak away” – it stays close to home. These trends is helping raise the economic impact of tourism in many communities.
DMO managers spend a lot of time attracting new visitors to their destination – but strategies to improve the economic impact of visitors as less common. Leveraging these important trends is a way that progressive DMO management can get the most for their communities from visitor dollars.