For most people, tourism only means one thing: a vacation. But for small business owners, tourism can mean much, much more than a relaxing week at the beach. Some business owners make most, if not all of their revenue from the tourism industry.
Locals often complain about tourists, and often for good reason. Tourists often don’t understand local customs or might even behave badly, exhibiting disrespect or even causing damage. They also might worry about overcrowding and other issues like maintaining affordable housing.
But despite these downsides, most local businesses thrive on tourism and welcome visitors with open arms. Vacationers can have a huge impact on their destination, and it’s important to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s how tourism impacts locals and their businesses around the world.
Tourism Can Greatly Improve Local Economies
We’ve seen again and again how important tourism can be to the growth of local economies. In some places, tourism is the main industry, period. When a destination becomes popular and tourists flock in, the money flowing into these economies can make a huge difference in the quality of life for locals. Countries like Greece and Costa Rica, for instance, depend on tourism heavily for the health of their economies.
Economic prosperity due to tourism isn’t just happening outside the United States, however. Some states, like Florida, are cashing in on their natural appeal for tourists and raking in those vacation dollars. In 2017 alone, tourists in Florida spent almost $90 billion. Places that can attract tourists will usually see incredible revenue boosts over time and a variety of new amenities.
The Environment Brings Tourists In… And Also Inspires Corporate Social Responsibility
There’s no getting around it: tourism isn’t usually good for the environment. Large crowds create wear and tear on natural areas and can place stress on wildlife. Without proper management, visitors can destroy natural and historical places very quickly.
More tourism also leads to more plastic and food waste, more washing of linens, and more restaurant meals. There are many ways that tourists contribute to their carbon footprint while on vacation, but that doesn’t mean people should never take another trip. It just means that we need some creative solutions.
Small and large businesses all have the power to help offset the environmental costs of tourism to make it more sustainable. Not only will this help to protect the local natural resources, but it will also help to build trust and satisfaction among customers, bringing in new business.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can take many forms. Local businesses might get involved with charities related to the local economy or environmental issues, reduce their own carbon footprint, and/or change how they source their products to become more environmentally-friendly. As long as these initiatives are sincere and transparent, they can help build local businesses while protecting the area’s resources for years to come.
Want to Know the Power of Tourism? Look at Disney
Florida, as we’ve mentioned, is a hotbed of tourism for the United States. And no one tourist destination attracts as many visitors as Disney World. Even as far back as 2011, Disney world was generating $18.2 billion in revenue per year, making up 2.5% of the state’s GDP and providing a huge source of tax revenue.
Disney World also employs a huge number of Floridians, which further helps to boost the local economy. No one would argue that the world’s largest theme park doesn’t massively benefit the state’s past and future economic prosperity—and it all comes from tourism! Additionally, Disney has been consciously building CSR programs since 2009 to offset some of the inevitable problems the park causes
So How Do You Attract Tourism to Improve Your Local Economy?
Local businesses have to be involved in attracting tourism in order to see more visitors and more benefits to the economy. If the tourism board isn’t actively marketing the area, then people may not know that the area is welcoming and fun for visitors.
So what can small businesses do to help boost tourism and improve the local economy? First, make yourself easy to find. Connect with travel agents who help people decide on where to spend their vacation days. They can champion your area with their clients, especially if you’re willing to offer discounts and special packages.
Businesses can also help by optimizing their websites to be mobile-friendly and use digital marketing techniques to promote themselves. It can take a while to promote tourism, but eventually, a combination of word-of-mouth and promotional techniques can pay off big for businesses and the local economy.
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