Tag Archives: hotels

Tourism Industry Undervalued – Needs Repect

At a recent town hall meeting, Oklahoma Lt. Governor Todd Lamb made a pretty good case that the tourism industry is one of, if not the most undervalued industry. “Few grasp the tourism industry’s impact on Oklahoma. They don’t realize U.S. travelers spend $7.2 billion in Oklahoma in 2012 or tourism generated $385.3 million in state taxes – the third largest revenue stream in state government – and $188.5 million in local taxes that year.”

rodney no respect

Beyond the numbers are all of the issues destination marketing professionals have to deal with. I recently spoke to a Chamber Leadership Class about issues related to tourism. After I shared my list, they started sharing theirs and frankly, I was speechless.

There’s the issues to be expected:

– the belief by residents that there’s ‘nothing to do’ and thus, they don’t help promote the destination.

– the lack of a high-class, ‘white cloth’ restaurant

– the lack of night life

– the lack of quality and variety of retail

– the need to improve downtown

But then there were the issues that again, left me speechless. Destination marketing professionals work with real estate developers, volunteers, elected officials, our Chambers and economic development offices to spur growth in our downtowns, add variety to the retail mix (or add retail to a heavy office use.) We work to beautify our entryways and make good first impressions.

How do you deal with out of state oil companies that don’t ‘buy into the local community’ through sponsorships or volunteerism? They certainly don’t show appreciation to the community by keeping their work spaces clear of debris or mowed (let alone landscaped.) What’s the solution to those same companies that over occupy the hotel rooms and stain them with their dirty, grimy work boots and clothes? And find an answer to very high paying drilling positions – so high that mothers and girl-friends don’t have to find a job leaving many retail and service (restaurant) jobs left unfilled.

Then there’s drugs. I have been privileged to go through DMAI’s Certified Destination Marketing Executive program and countless tourism conferences. Never once did the subject of drugs come up. But in some destinations, it is a real issue that is affecting tourism.

Too many believe a CVB simply places ads, mails visitor guides and on occasion, put on an event. Destination marketing involves management of the issues related to the community as an attractive destination to visitors – valuable visitors spending a LOT of money – so much money that, at least in Oklahoma, tourism is the third largest revenue generating industry in the state. That is a profession worth some respect.

Reminder: Tourism IS Economic Development

Another community leadership group has asked me to speak about tourism and it’s impact to the businesses and entities the classmates represent.  No problem.  Do it all the time and am happy to do so!  What shocked me was the coordinator’s request for me to share how tourism works WITH economic development.  In response I replied I would be more than happy to share how tourism *IS* economic development.  She seemed startled at the response and concept.

While CVBs / DMOs are fighting for our relevancy and possible existence, here we are still with some at square one: what we do impacts the community economically and thus, we – tourism – IS economic development.  I know I am preaching to the choir but for the sake of reminding us, here’s in part what I plan to share with them…

1. Even Economic Development defines tourism as economic development!  In the definitions on EconomicDevelopment.net, Economic Development isabout increasing the flow of capital through the community.  They define tourism’s focus as providing services to pleasure travelers and increasing the flow of capital, especially in the form of money, into the places (the communities) they visit. By definition, tourism IS economic development.

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2. DMAI’s CDME courses puts it this way… the temporary movement of people (TOURISTS) to destinations outside of their normal place of work and residence, the activities undertaken en route to an during their stay at these destinations and the facilities / services created to cater to their needs (TOURISM), which leads to economic impacts generated by these activities (TOURISM INDUSTRY).

3. It ain’t just hotels, restaurants and attractions… plumbers fix the toilets at hotels… restaurants deposit money in banks, dry cleaners clean uniforms worn by attraction associates, the gal that cuts my hair has to make someone in the tourism industry look good, printers print promotional material, real estate agents sell houses to hotel employees, car dealerships sell cars to amusement park employees… need I go on?  Those are just the easy ones!  Those amusement park employees put gas in their cars – gas comes from oil – all you oil drillers and refinery workers, we welcome you as members of the tourism industry!

4. Just look at the numbers…  Domestic travelers spent $7.2B in Oklahoma in 2012 making tourism the 3rd largest industry.  Kansas boasts $8.3B in expenditures in 2011.  Your state probably has similar reports to Oklahoma and Kansas.  The US Travel Association has numerous research reports outlining travel’s impact on the economy.

5. But sometimes a simple statement can summarize points better than all the above…Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Brand USA put it this way at the DMAI Convention this past July: There is nothing about economic development that doesn’t begin with a visit.

Take pride!  What you do is important to the community!  You / we ARE economic development!

Thanks for reading!