Musings From the Driver’s Seat
Why Tourism Promotion Can Be a Small Community’s Economic Change Agent
By Barbara Emener Karasek
When Tony and I decided to buy Paradise, we did so because of the amazing team, the clientele and the fact that we couldn’t see anything but continued success for years to come. Over these past eight months, we’ve been delighted to add many things to that list, such as getting to see firsthand the impact tourism has had on the lives of the people that call those communities we promote home.
The truth is that the power of tourism goes well beyond getting your attraction on a top ten list or being known for the best food scene in the Southeast. In the state of Florida, tourism creates 1,435,341 jobs and the economic impact is in the billions. In the 16 years that Paradise has worked with destination clients, our marketing campaigns have helped destinations create nearly 100,000 jobs for their residents (and attract new ones), nearly $100 million in bed tax dollars, generating close to $12 billion in economic impact. We’re all extremely proud of these staggering numbers that will hopefully continue to grow.
I travel frequently, both in and out of state, to big cities, rural towns, small communities, heavily populated urban areas and everything in between. Recently, I’ve been everywhere from Yulee, Anthony, Citra, and Chokoloskee, to Mexico Beach, Palatka, Macon, Gatlinburg, Boone and Helen. All unique in their own ways, but exactly the same when it comes to the impact tourism has on their destination. It warms my heart as I travel the back roads and blue highways.
As I drive to work each day, I see the effects that tourism marketing has on the community I live in. Both Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and Visit Tampa Bay have done an excellent job of promoting the destination, enabling the local governments to attract developers, which has in turn, opened up new opportunities for the local workforce and drawn top talent from all over the nation. It’s this combination of tourism and real estate marketing that helps communities realize their economic potential. Build a destination people love to visit, and they’ll want to move there. Build a destination people love to live in, and they’ll invite and encourage others to visit.
Wake Up Sleepy Town
In many ways, tourism has acted as the caffeine that invigorated the Tampa Bay area, now ranked as one of the top 25 fastest growing metropolitan areas. We live where people vacation — then stay forever— and the truth is we’re all benefitting from the spike of interest in our little peninsular slice of paradise. Steady tourism generates residual income which creates jobs and raises the property values of our homes, inspiring developers to build more housing to support an exponentially expanding workforce.
Love Where You Live
Destination communities rely on a stable and diverse housing market to ensure hoteliers, restaurants, sports complexes and attractions are adequately staffed. When tourism and real estate marketing work in tandem, they drive both workforce and tourism growth, which drives community growth. After all, it’s not just the people that work in the hotels that are benefitting from this boom — it’s the local outfitter who can buy more inventory and hire more staff. It’s the plumber who saw his business triple in size because local hotels and attractions need regular, steady work done. Or the restaurateur who wasn’t sure that his first venture would be successful and now owns three locations — and even the nail salon that now has a steady flow of traffic seven days a week. Not to mention, the local farmer who now trucks locally-farmed produce to businesses every week in greater volume. When you think about the number of businesses and individuals who are able to not just make a living but flourish and elevate their personal circumstances, tourism marketing is undeniably worth the investment.
Next time you’re sitting in traffic thinking to yourself, “Where did all these people come from?” instead think about how many lives that vacationing family of four in the car next to you, or the grandparents driving cautiously in front of you with their grandchildren on the way to a local museum, are actually touching. I know that always puts a smile on my face. #TourismWorks