Civic Tourism: A Public Approach
While CHG promotes heritage tourism, we recognize that tourism is
one of the least civically engaged industries in America, partly because
itís such a transient business. This lack of community connection
is unfortunate because tourism is the principal employer in many areas,
with tremendous potential to impact a place Ė economically and in
other meaningful ways. Not listening to the public can lead to inappropriate,
controversial products, often contributing to an "us-and-them"
attitude between residents and visitors.
When a town creates a heritage tourism initiative, itís telling the
story of people who have lived, and do live, there. Hence,
itís essential the program involve residents in collecting, interpreting,
and telling the story. Unlike other forms of tourism, which often
exclude the public, heritage tourism invites people into the process,
and in that way it can foster public participation and instill pride
in oneís community.
Appropriate tourism respects the community, its residents, and their
history. It provides adequate jobs for the people who live there,
and most of the money generated through tourism benefits the town,
not multinational corporations.
Involving the public can keep your town from being engulfed by tourism.
In planning for visitors, the first priority is still the people who
live there, not visitors or global companies. Thatís why itís important
that residents set the agenda. Can you buy more than T-shirts, souvenirs,
and cappuccinos on Main Street, for example? A civic approach sees
tourism as part of the solution to place-making, rather than an outside
force that buries a region's sense of place. Most importantly for
the hospitality industry, engaging citizens can lead to public and
political support for tourism, because advocates can demonstrate how
tourism actually helps communities preserve a region's quality of
- For more about Civic Tourism, see www.civictourism.org.