Editor’s Note: This is part two of a four-part series on the Four Pillars of a Strong Tourism Community.Last week, I described the first pillar of a strong tourism economy, which is: The Goods. The second pillar of a strong tourism economy is a community’s Political Will.
Political will can be measured in several ways. First is the city’s leadership. Do community leaders even recognize tourism as a viable economy? This may seem like an odd question given economic and financial information readily available on the internet. However, the tourism “industry” is really made up of several “brick and mortar” industries like hotels, vacation rentals, car rentals, tours, air (and other types of) travel, restaurants, rafting, skiing, art galleries, and even grocery and clothes shopping.
Data is not easily derived as to how much these easily recognizable businesses or sub-industries benefit from the out-of-town visitor. To the best of our knowledge, 100 percent of hotel room revenue is derived from visitors, while about one-third of all other sales in our county derive their revenue from visitors.
Finally, the tourism industry comprises different percentages of the economy in different places. It comprises 26 percent of our economy, while the percentage is much larger in places like Telluride; Orlando, Florida; or Maui in Hawaii.
Though most government officials and employees owe their loyalty and service to local residents, it often gets lost that (in La Plata County, for example) one in four jobs of those same residents is derived from the tourism industry, or that visitors pay about one-third of all the city sales tax, or about $7 million per year here in Durango. That’s a lot of salaries for policemen or care for our parks and infrastructure, and that’s a lot of jobs (about 6,500) in our county.
Despite this substantial economic impact on our city and county, our community has fallen behind almost every other community in the state in tourism marketing. By this I mean that we spend less on tourism marketing than almost every other community in Colorado. It could be that we think Durango sells itself. Many folks believe this.
The truth is that people looking to “get away” look online (both social media and website searches), at magazines and talk to friends. All of these media outlets are flooded by sophisticated tourism marketing efforts designed at luring visitors to their area, so the competition is keen and getting more so.
Our community must acknowledge this reality and its political will must be measured by its actions in keeping our area thriving, alive and beautiful. It can also be measured by putting our money where our mouth is. Investing in our community’s largest economy, that in turn supports more jobs and returns more to our government coffers than any other single effort, is the prudent thing to do.
It brings measurable, beneficial results far into our future. Let’s support our community leaders in moving in this positive direction.
Contact Durango Area Tourism Office Executive Director Frank Lockwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.