Tourism is taking off, but many rural communities may be left behind

Posted on October 18, 2013

Posted in: Categories Uncategorised

With the clouds starting to clear over many regions as the economy shows signs of improvement, rural communities stand to be left behind as more organized competitive destinations ramp up their tourism development and marketing activities.  Here are some indicators:

Get Adventurous: Adventure Travel Is Booming

Record Setting August!

International tourism demand exceeds expectations in the first half of 2013

However, rural communities have ample opportunities to collaborate with local and regional partners in order to develop social capital and share expertise.

Study Shows Rural Tourism Is Economic Development Driver

The “BIG” question becomes: What do you want to achieve? If the main objectives are to create jobs and produce revenue, then there are many options available.  While tourism, on the surface, appears to be a viable vehicle to achieve these means, there are significant critical success factors necessary to achieve desired outcomes:

The critical success factors raise a number of questions from the visitors’ perspective:

What are you going to do when you get there? Where are you going to stay? Where will you eat? How will the local residents treat you as a visitor? Will they welcome you? What will the service be like at the front desk or in the restaurant? Will your guide be knowledgeable and entertaining? Is the equipment you are using safe? Is the destination clean or littered with trash? Is there enough to do for more than one day?

While it is tempting to focus on promotional efforts, these questions highlight the importance of building capacity in preparation for our visitors. If these visitors have a clear understanding and expectation of the experience prior to arrival, then the opportunity for disappointment may be minimized.

AirBnB lets you stay in an Indonesian Slum

An example of leveraging partnerships is shown in a paper I wrote with Barbara Smith and Dustin Bodnarnyk:

The Evolution of a Tourism Delivery System: Marketing Garden Clusters on Vancouver Island

Here is a synopsis:
“This paper proposes to support the development of an effective tourism delivery system with a focus on a marketing strategy, which leverages, enhances and delivers the identity of Hatley Park National Historic Site (HP NHS, n.d.a.) to desired tourism market niche consumers.  Through collaboration of competitive and complementary businesses and organizations including Hatley Park, the Vancouver Island regional cluster of gardens and supporting businesses form a single tourism product, “The Garden Trail” to market globally.  Using cluster theory as a framework (Porter, 1998), this paper examines the collaborative structure, processes and success factors of garden clusters on Vancouver Island conducive to globally marketing competitive tourism products.”

Essentially, “As tourism stakeholders (private and public, competitive and non-competitive) share resources, knowledge, and a common vision, the greater group may effectively become a more competitive collective entity better able to rapidly respond to emerging trends and markets.”

I think Pico Iyer provides solace to us that the travel bug is inherent in each one of us and that rural communities have ample opportunities to develop attractive offerings, as long as they focus on the visitor experience:

Why we Travel