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Tomorrow’s Tourism: Visitors, Our Farms & Businesses: Are We Ready?

July 2, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
[Ernest’s note: Today, I would like to introduce a new feature. I thought it would be neat to reach out occasionally to hear different perspectives. To kick us off, the following article for Adk Biz Today is from Bernadette Logozar, Rural & Ag Economic Development Specialist Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County]:

At the end of May I took part in a panel discussion about "Tomorrow’s Tourism." There was discussion about trends in tourism I thought a wider audience would benefit from especially those directly (and indirectly) involved in the tourism industry.

Statistics & Trends: Tourism is the 5th largest employer in New York State. According to the I Love NY Tourism the top travel ideas in New York State include: Spare Seat Expedition; Culinary Tourism; History and Culture; Outdoors and Water. In the Adirondack region, tourism is a $1.1 Billion dollar industry that directly employs some 20,000 people and represents about 17% of the overall employment of the region . In 2010, the Adirondack region saw a 7% increase in traveler spending.

How does tourism and agriculture intersect?

In the last decade, across the NNY region (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties) there has been a growth in the number of farmers markets and farm stands. Ten years ago there were about 25 farmers markets, while today there are over 43 markets opening this season. The variety of products available for purchase at these markets has also expanded. Alongside of the growth of farmers markets and farm stands, there has been an increase in the number of farms opening their farm gates to visitors and offering a range of activities whether that be U-pick berries, pick-your-own pumpkins, corn mazes, work stays and much more.

Emerging trends in Tourism:

There is a growing increase in ‘staycations’ (also called holistays) across North America and Europe, as both individuals and families choose to stay and relax at home or seek out area entertainment and recreational trips over taking long overnight trips or travel destinations. According to Randy White, of White Hutchinson Leisure and Learning Group in Kansas City, Missouri common activities on a staycation include use of backyard pool, watching movies or playing video games, visits to local family entertainment centers, amusement parks, museums, zoos, local festivals or sporting events.

Reasons for the staycation trend have been attributed to high gas prices or the current economic recession; however, despite extensive press coverage on staycationer trend White could not find any research to back up the claims being made in popular media.

Which raises the question if the phenomenon exists is it a result of the current economic recession or could it be a much larger trend?

The answer to this question is important as “any finding will have broad implications for the future of out-of-home community-based entertainment venues, that include family entertainment centers (FEC), as well as tourist-type entertainment attractions that are visited on out-of-town overnight trips”.

What White discovered through his research was the staycation trend does exist! Additionally this is a much longer trend than first believed. Between 2000-2009 when the average household spending was basically flat (only increasing about 4%) average household entertainment spending during out-of-town trips dropped by one-third! The other interesting find was that the recession did not cause the staycation trend, but it has accelerated it.

In actuality the staycation trend started during the past decade, and has been getting stronger ever since. Interestingly enough, this is a trend that crosses all household income levels and ages, although, there is a slightly greater percentage who are young travelers. As well, the highest numbers can be found with adults with children and more cohab couples than married.

What does this mean for tomorrow’s tourism? White’s “research clearly shows that the staycation phenomenon is in fact occurring and that it is a long-term trend that most likely will continue into the future, with location-based leisure spending on trips continuing to decline as a share of all location-based entertainment spending”. However, households with the “highest 40% of incomes have increased their spending by 35% over the past 10 years while the bottom 60% of income households have decreased spending by 10%.” Moreover, it should be noted that the “highest 40% of income households account for 70% of all community based entertainment spending, up from 64% in 2000”. For those involved in tourism industry, especially community-based entertainment the news is good, if these facilities are targeting higher socio-economic households. In a nutshell, you want to go where the money is.

Are you ready for tomorrow’s tourist?

With an increasing number of people opting to ‘staycate’ rather than vacate, it behooves those in tourism related businesses to look closer to home with respect to their own advertising and marketing. Focus your marketing on one benefit your destination that appeals to larger groups. Do you offer three generation or 3G-tourism? Are you family friendly?

Other tips:

Remind travelers how they can save money on gas, lodging and airfare by staying closer to home and taking in your venue compared to destinations that have a longer travel time. Cross-promote and market with other businesses in your community, so it is worth the trip down the road, because there is something for all members of the family. Consider sourcing local to keep those tourism dollars circulating in your community. Do you feature locally raised or grown agricultural products? Is there a local coffee roaster that can be added to your line-up of offerings? Can people stop and pick their own berries, is the farmers market open. Or maybe you are grilling up some local burgers topped with artisan or local cheese. Yum!

For those with tourist-based businesses in the Adirondacks, you can cash in on the fact that this region has ranked as the ‘greenest’ tourism region by the Audubon Society both for New York State and the United States as a whole. Utilizing third party certifications to promote your business or region can go far to bring more through the door.

Consider how your business compliments or is complimented by those around you, can you offer a package deal to families with children?

While, the Adirondack-based tourist of tomorrow starts counting their leisure dollars before heading on a day trip or a short excursion, what other additional amenities are you offering to entice them to spend their money closer to home?

As you polish your marketing and promotion for the 2012 tourism season, consider how you are going to get your neighbors to visit and stay a while, and keep that tourism dollar working for us plan to shop, buy and visit locally this summer.


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