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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Horace Blake
In the past, most experienced travelers would be associated with organizations such as Thomas Cook or American Express Travel. With the advent of the Internet, many travelers are able to book their travel arrangements at the click of a button. While many airlines have a travel desk that offers packages to a variety of locations, a wide array of travel organizations includes Visitors and Convention Bureaus.
However, a little less known to the traveling public are government tourist offices that could be international, local, regional or national. For example, with an advertisement in a travel magazine or media outlet that advertises government tourist office you can be assured these are government agencies are dedicated to bringing economic opportunity and prosperity to a region. The Mexican Government Tourist Office, The Jamaica Government Tourist Board or the New Zealand Ministry of Tourism tends to have offices in many countries specifically to carry out the business of tourism.
Tourism can be viewed as an economic bonanza where specialized government staff is focused on areas such as:
Many government tourism agencies are able to build agglomeration economies of scale around tourist activities, which creates sustainable economic opportunities for that local region based on:
Getting the Word Out
One of the most effective advertising tools in getting the word out to the public are travel junkets. This is where the sponsoring organization, such as a national government tourist office, will send out special invitations to those who make or arrange travel opportunities for groups, including annual conventions. The government staff will plan, entertain and host all their guests to enjoy exactly what the general traveling public will experience when they become a client of that organization. Another advantage to this endeavor is that many regions collaborate with nearby colleges and universities that offer hospitality programs to produce the very best professionals. Those that learn a variety of skills related to lodging, entertainment, culinary expertise in food and beverage preparation, language and convenient transportation is an added plus. Being able to sell the location to all the guests on the junket will parlay into more sustainable tourist dollars making its way to that particular location. Being able to access the multi-billion dollar tourist industry has the potential to bring in peripheral businesses such as new investments in residential and commercial real estate, also sports venues such as sailing, golfing, horse racing and the ever popular auto racing.
Planning for a Specialized Tourist Industry
Specialized and professional tourism planning requires vision and insight as well as the support from that region or country. Many government tourist agencies will employ large staff with many areas of expertise and language skills. They are able to be the conduit in the community and sell the idea to the public that this industry is a winning opportunity that will attract the traveling public, thereby generating increased sales and tax revenues.
The highly skilled staff frequently seen in global government tourist offices is dedicated to producing sales and direction to interested clients. Leisure tourism is considered to be elastic as when economies are booming then there is brisk travel out from those areas; but when there is an economic slump, the industry could be negatively affected. For this reason, a diversified location should also cater to local visitors in terms of “staycation” where short stays and utilization of regional venues are able to support that economy through tough economic times. Another area to attach focus is utilizing industry indicators that measure the impact of tourism on a region and the effect it has on these communities. Using these indicators to plan for current and future tourist activities is a clarion call on how this will impact wealth for all in that area in terms of the successes.
Assessing Economic Tourism
Tourism is a very large and forever growing multi-billion dollar industry with travel options on the rise in terms of pricing offers and varieties of travel destinations. With that said, there are many places that were unknown to the traveling public until events such as locating convenient transportation, filming a movie at that location or having very wealthy guests seeking the perfect hideaway. This adds notoriety and prestige to that destination and then the crowds follow suit to identify with the very privileged few.
The downside to this is that quiet towns and retreats will now become bustling construction sites along with other challenges such as traffic, construction dust and lack of sufficient public service and goods that overwhelm the local authorities. However, the worst issue that many citizens have expressed is being displaced by developers due to price hikes in real estate and the cost of leasing properties. For example, locally the need to build a presidential library received the ire of local citizens as residential apartments in a quiet neighborhood were ultimately destroyed to make way for huge tourist and visiting public. Another example is the small colonial town of San Miguel Allende in central Mexico that hosted the filming of one of Antonio Bandera’s films. Since then the crowds kept coming, many have stayed as the climate, scenery and thermal water baths becomes a huge draw. The local citizens become the loser as they are not able to compete for real estate offerings as those from outside have deep pockets where the bidding war easily escalates. Therefore, the benefits of economic tourism could be deemed twofold and unpredictable.