In response to international concern over the sustainability of growth in tourism destinations worldwide, Destinations International has partnered with Longwoods International, a premiere tourism market research consultancy, to find out how Americans feel about the tourism industry’s growth—both its benefits to their lives as well as the potential pitfalls.
Here are the highlights of the national study:
Overall, Americans are broadly supportive of tourism: The study found broad support for the industry, with more than 70% saying tourism was positive for their state and 65% saying the industry is good for their community.
Tourism delivers a variety of benefits: Including economic investment in local communities, a greater number of recreation opportunities, greater shopping, and improved public services. More than sixty percent of Americans believe the myriad of benefits the industry provides outweigh any negative impacts and support the industry’s growth.
Tourism has its drawbacks: Respondents bemoaned low-paying, seasonal jobs, traffic and parking, and overcrowding at attractions and popular leisure facilities as the main downsides to tourism in their area.
But environmental impacts aren’t among them: Tourism is judged as being less detrimental to the environment than other forms of economic development, and can actually benefit the environment in cases of government protection of scenic or environmentally sensitive areas.
American attitudes do not appear to match those of residents in “extreme” over-tourism destinations: Resident backlash against tourism in several high-profile destinations worldwide, including Barcelona, Venice, and Dubrovnik, does not appear to be happening in America. Overall, there is strong support for publicly-funded state and local tourism marketing efforts.
However, they want to be consulted: 40% of respondents in the study do not believe that locals are informed about or have input into tourism development projects before they happen. This highlights the need for a clear communication strategy, coordination with policymakers and engagement with both supporters and detractors of the industry and the general public.
Tourism’s detractors are in the minority: They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, and more rural; they also tend to travel less and be less informed about the tourism industry. Preventing this small but vocal group (they make up only 21% of those surveyed) from damaging tourism’s otherwise broad support is possible through education, two-way communication, addressing at least some of the destination’s marketing strategy to thoughtfully consider local residents, not just potential visitors.
The findings for the industry are largely encouraging—residents are receptive and open to tourism development; in fact, they see the industry as having a net positive impact. The study acknowledges that over-tourism may potentially be a problem in parts of the U.S.—anywhere tourists concentrate in high numbers has the potential to experience negative effects if the industry is not properly managed. But at a national level, the threat may be over-hyped. The crucial need is for tourism leaders and marketers to be aware of the risks and rewards, and proceed strategically—one size does not fit all.
This national study will be repeated annually. Individual studies for destination organizations (cities/states/regions) through Longwoods’ Destinations International Partner Program. The study can be customized to measure Resident Sentiment versus the national norm, as well as to investigate key issues important to each destination. Download the study here.
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Partner and President & CEO