A Strategic Approach to Integrating Tourism Into Economic Development

A Strategic Approach to Integrating Tourism Into Economic Development Main Photo

10 Jun 2024


Tourism is an often underutilized driver of economic growth, capable of transforming communities by creating jobs, fostering local businesses, and enhancing the overall quality of life. Economic developers and tourism professionals must work together to create a cohesive strategy that leverages the community’s tourism potential. Here’s how you can integrate tourism into your economic development strategy effectively.

The Economic Impact of Tourism

Tourism significantly impacts the economy. In the United States, tourism generates approximately $1.9 trillion in economic output, supports 9.5 million American jobs, and accounts for 2.9% of the US GDP. Even small states benefit immensely; for example, Delaware sees 13,800 jobs created by tourism. On the other hand, in Florida, the jobs created exceeds one million.

Leisure travel has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, and a significant portion of Americans plan to increase their spending on leisure travel. The US Travel Association reports that leisure travel represents 80% of tourism revenue. Additionally, business meetings and events contribute significantly, with spending on event-related travel reaching $119 billion in 2023.

Key Strategies for Collaboration

#1 Joint Strategic Planning

Collaboration begins with joint strategic planning. Aligning objectives and identifying common priorities allows economic development and tourism professionals to create a shared vision for growth. This process involves developing a roadmap with specific actions, initiatives, and timelines.

#2 Information and Resource Sharing

Open communication channels are vital. Economic development professionals can provide insights into local business environments, investment opportunities, and infrastructure plans. In contrast, tourism professionals can share market research, visitor trends, and promotional strategies.

#3 Collaboration in Marketing and Promotion

Pooling resources to develop integrated marketing campaigns can highlight a region’s unique attributes, investment potential, and tourism offerings. This approach ensures a consistent message and maximizes the reach of promotional activities.

#4 Capacity Building and Knowledge Exchange

Joint training sessions, workshops, and conferences enhance understanding between professionals. This exchange of knowledge promotes a shared language and strengthens partnerships.

#5 Infrastructure Development

Coordinated efforts in infrastructure development support the needs of both visitors and local businesses, ensuring strategic investments that enhance the tourism experience and provide a foundation for sustainable growth.

Developing a Tourism Strategy

Developing a tourism strategy should be a collaborative effort involving stakeholders from diverse sectors, such as parks and recreation, retail, entertainment, lodging, and service sectors. City and county leadership should also participate in these conversations, as infrastructure investments may be necessary.

#1 Identify Your Community’s Unique Assets

Determine what makes your community unique–whether it’s historical architecture, natural beauty, or local traditions. Conduct surveys and interviews to gather data and identify trends and opportunities.

#2 Understand Your Tourism Audience

Market segmentation is crucial for success. Targeting Millennials, senior citizens, and convention attendees can illustrate the broad scope of market segmentation strategies. Tailoring marketing strategies to different demographic segments enhances the designation’s appeal.

#3 Use Tools to Identify Target Audiences

Demographic insights, behavioral insights, and asset analysis are essential tools for understanding traveler preferences and crafting effective strategies.

Engaging the Community

Engaging the local community is crucial for the vitality and sustainability of the tourism sector. This involvement enhances the visitor experience and strengthens local economies.

#1 Educate the Community

Inform the community about how increasing tourism benefits them. Transparent communication regarding tourism revenues and their contribution to local development projects can change perceptions and highlight tourism’s impact.

#2 Develop Community-Based Tourism Products

Creating offerings that incorporate local participation, such as arts and crafts workshops or culinary experiences, allows the community to enjoy direct economic benefits.

#3 Prioritizing Local Hiring

Hiring locals within tourism-related businesses fosters goodwill and benefits the community’s economy.

#4 Manage Feedback

Regular forums and surveys capture the community’s feedback on tourism developments, helping adapt strategies to better suit local needs.

By fostering collaboration, developing targeted strategies, and engaging the community, economic developers and tourism professionals can unlock the full potential of tourism as a driver of economic growth.

To learn more about how to incorporate tourism into your economic development strategy, download our comprehensive tourism whitepaper today.

About The Author

Audrey Anderson's Profile Photo

Audrey Anderson

Director of Marketing & Communications

Department: Marketing

Audrey Anderson, with Golden Shovel Agency since January 2020, advanced from Marketing & Communication Assistant to Director of Marketing. With Bachelor's Degrees in Communication Studies and Public Relations from Minnesota State University Moorhead, she manages social media, newsletters, press releases, digital ads, and content publication. Audrey's favorite projects are the whitepaper campaigns for economic development organizations. She enjoys seeing creative business strategies in economic development. Based in Sauk Rapids, MN, Audrey spends her time with her family, at the lake, and watching her favorite TV shows.