The recent Icelandic volcanic eruption that closed down much of the world’s transportation system and the fighting in Greece should serve once again as a reminder not only of the importance of tourism as an economic generating tool but also that tourism is a major export commodity. One of the mistakes that economic developers and business experts make is ignoring tourism as a major export industry. In fact, tourism is often a renewable export that if used properly can also be a major economic development tool.
Tourism is not only big business but also tourism should be seen and protected as perhaps one of the world’s premier export products. The fact that tourism is an export industry is noted in a Jamaican study which stated: “An export industry is one that sells a significant share of its goods or services outside of the country, thus bringing new money into the local economy. Tourism appears to meet these two tenets as the Jamaica Tourist Board reports that over 90 percent of our tourists are international and the Bank of Jamaica reports that the industry contributed some USD 1,975,519,000 to foreign exchange earnings in 2008.” (Jamaica WI Gleaner, June 21, 2008). If we, then, assume that exports refer to money going from place X to place Y due to the sale of product W, then tourism easily meets this standard.
What especially makes tourism a valuable export product is that, if cared for properly, it is a sustainable and renewable resource. Unlike primary resources, such as petroleum or minerals, tourism is not finite. No matter how many people visit the ocean, the ocean is still the ocean, and no matter how many people view a mountain, the mountain remains in place. In fact, in places that have lost manufacturing jobs, tourism offers an alternative advantage in that unlike manufacturing jobs, visits to a specific locale cannot be shipped offshore. Tourism’s sustainability does not mean, however, that a tourism product must not be protected. Tourism, like any commodity, can be overused, exploited poorly or allowed to decline. Tourism also needs the support of the local community. Without this support, tourism often becomes an unsustainable product. In order then to use your tourism industry as an export product, I suggest the following:
Educate your community about the fact that tourism is the world’s largest peacetime industry, and of its economic benefits.
For those people who like facts and figures, according to the World Tourism Council in 2006 tourism produced over USD 6 trillion. It is estimated that the world’s tourism industries provided around the world 221 million jobs, with an expectation that by 2015 tourism will be providing some 269 million jobs. Even with the world’s economic problems it is hoped that by 2015, tourism’s growth rate is expected to average 4.6 percent per year. The Organization for Economic and Operational Development reports on its website that: “Tourism is a key component of the service economy (30 percent of international trade in services in the OECD area). Tourism, which has expanded dramatically over the past 30 years, looks set to continue growing as societies become more mobile and prosperous.” In the USA the US Bureau of Labor Statistics measures changes in the prices of goods bought in the USA by foreign visitors. These goods plus services are a US export.
Demonstrate to your community how tourism adds to your local economy in a variety of ways.
Included are hotel and restaurant expenditures and taxes, conventions and meetings, taxes paid on transportation, attractions of foreign capital, especially in hotel construction, creation of additional jobs in such areas as public services and infrastructure renewal.
Make sure that people understand that tourism not only generates employment but also may be a major renewable export source.
The tourism industry is all about the selling of memories. The industry helps to bring foreign money to a particular locale where visitors buy local goods and services. Visitors take home the memory of the good time. Tourism professionals understand that the vacation memory is an abstract export commodity. Furthermore, tourism attractions rarely get depleted or disappear; thousands / millions of people can see the same attraction. Foreign visitors also become a major source of foreign exchange, and helping a nation’s balance of payment. It must be noted, however, that for tourism to be a renewable resource it must be developed in a sustainable / responsible manner. That means that where ecologies are fragile, numbers and activities must be tightly controlled, pollution must be prevented, and local cultures protected.
Tourism can be an export product even in rural areas.
Tourism is about seeing what is different. Rural areas that may be losing population or industry can become tourism centres and create need job opportunities for their younger people. Visitations by foreign tourists also can result in cross-national networking opportunities.
Do not be afraid to use creative marketing to attract new money to your area.
For example, according to the Travel Association of America, in the United States the tourism industry produces over USD 600 billion dollars in revenue and over USD 100 billion in taxes paid to local, state and federal governments. Much of this money comes from visitors from overseas, who earn their money in their home nation and then bring it to another nation. Tap into this market with creative marketing and do not be afraid to flaunt your region, what may seem common place to you may become an international attraction to others.
Market in as many languages as possible.
Turning your tourism product into an export market means being open to the world. Develop foreign language brochures, encourage the teaching of foreign languages in your school system, and teach your own culture. Tourism does best when it represents the best of who you are to others. Ironically when you celebrate your own culture you become an export market for visitors from other cultures.
Emphasise that tourism is an important economic development tool for emerging and minority communities around the world.
Because tourism is based on the appreciation of the other, tourism industries have been especially open to giving disadvantaged groups around the world opportunities that have often been denied to them by other economic sectors. In this respect tourism should not been viewed only at the surface level. Tourism produces not only income from foreign guests but also provides large numbers of entry level jobs, and often means the difference between a smaller community’s business success and failure. In nations where there is a decline in manufacturing, the tourism industry can be an essential method to reinvigorate local economies. The bottom line is that tourism is an export commodity that can also become an economic and educational development tool bringing wealth to the local economy while protecting its cultural ecology.