While tourism may not be the complete solution to helping local economies, it is certainly a large part of it. If you have a small business, no matter where you are located, your business and your community can benefit. Tourism needs all kinds of businesses from services to products to retail to food to rentals and more. Be creative! You can build a business or grow an existing one simply by being mindful of the relationship between tourism and local business.
Why should I care about local tourism?
If you have a small business in a town that tends to attract tourists, you can benefit in a number of ways. For one, you can increase your business and build partnerships with other commercial enterprises which will remain past the primary tourist season. For another, you are helping your local community become self-sustaining and a travel destination. This in turn betters the economy for permanent residents of your community.
Isn’t it true that only certain businesses can benefit from local tourism?
No. According to the University of Wisconsin Center for Community Economic Development “Tourism strengthens a community’s retail base. Communities that sell to tourists have significantly more retail establishments and divers mix of products and services” (p. 3). Thus, virtually any type of business is able to benefit from local tourism. Outside dollars stimulate the local economy overall.
What communities have succeeded in promoting local tourism?
There are too many to mention. But in the US, Georgia , Tennessee  and Wisconsin are three examples of states that have used government task forces and bills to promote the creation of small business which increase tourism. Another example is from Florida, PamPortwood, a leader in the project to bring tourism away from the beaches states: “, “tourism is economic development. It does bring jobs. And especially in rural tourism it’s not always the traditional kind of lower paying jobs that people think about tourism creating because it’s mostly small businesses. It’s outfitters, green guides, people like that.”  Her project has been going on for over 5 years and is gaining momentum.
What assistance is available?
Nearly every state and country has listings of support offered. Here is an example from Canada. This example shows basic assistance. But there are also grants and funding opportunities. In the USA much is available at the federal level. Most local communities also offer assistance with data, growth sectors, and economic reports from past years. All of this information can help you decide how to start or redirect your business efforts to take advantage of local tourism.
What if I do not live in a “touristy” place?
Believe it or not, nearly every place on earth can be a place for tourists. Think about what your location has to offer. There will be a niche of people who want to experience it. Extreme weather, terrain, physical taxation, a place few have seen, there is something about where you live and work that others want. The best thing is to try and work with other businesses. Create a web page and target the “off the beaten path” travel sector. Travelers often want to experience “authentic” local flavor; whatever that may be (food, activity, and scenery).
How can I work with local government?
There are two things that nearly every small town seems to do: (1) Encourage all business to work with their local chamber of commerce and (2) work with their state’s department of parks/wildlife. The chamber of commerce is a great way to know who is in your local government and how to get more involved. Working with a state department of tourism or parks can mean your business can ride on the coattails of the advertising the state does for tourism. You may be able to have a link to its website or be featured as a place of interest on the state’s website.
No matter what your business is, local tourism will benefit it. If your town has not begun to focus on attracting travelers, it may take 3-5 years before you see the ROI. But you will benefit. Get started today and show the world what you’ve got!