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The embrace of tourism triggers a contest for the soul of a place.
Hal Rothman

Our Programs: Heritage Tourism


Check the Stats: Tourism

By no means complete, below are a few facts that illustrate how appropriate tourism can contribute to the community. See the Readings for other examples and best practices.

Challenges To Creating a Tourism Program
that Works

  1. When tourism does create significant wealth, the higher cost of living often drives away locals.

  2. Too much tourism in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas can exploit and even destroy the very thing that visitors want to experience.

  3. Tourism is by nature a transient industry – people coming and going all the time – which makes community-building a challenge.

  4. Tombstone attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually, but because tourists don’t stay long or spend much ("drive-by tourists"), their contribution to the city’s tax base is only 35%, leaving the remainder to a scant 1,400 residents.

Findings: The Demographics of Heritage Tourism

  1. As more and more Boomers retire (76 million Americans who value experience and experimentation), heritage tourism will continue to grow. The so-call "Echo Boomers" – the younger Gen Ys – also exhibit many of the same characteristics.

  2. Nearly 40% of travelers now say they visit history museums and other historic sites when they travel.

  3. A 1998 Phoenix study showed attendance at cultural institutions is higher than sporting events (5.8 million vs. 4.3 million).

  4. Attendance at museums in the U.S. increased by more than 50% in the 1990s alone. Museums and historic sites now attract more than 210 million people annually.

Findings: Heritage Tourism and the Economy

  1. A 1997 Arizona study found that heritage tourists stay in the state nearly four times longer than typical travelers, they spend considerably more, and their propensity to shop is much higher (59% vs. 39%).

  2. The American Association of Museums says that a quality museum keeps visitors in a community an extra half-day – more time to shop, eat, and possibly stay over another night. The half-day translates to an extra $62 spent per person.

  3. An appropriate tourism program is good for future business. It’s not uncommon for vacationing CEOs and others to relocate their company to an area that has a healthy quality of life.

  4. In 1997, people traveling for pleasure spent $425 billion; it’s estimated that at least 60% visited natural and cultural attractions.

Findings: How We Live

  1. Heritage tourism celebrates a region’s history and heritage and involves residents in the design of any initiative. For that reason, this tourism approach is less likely to experience resident backlash, which is common among other forms of tourism.

  2. Heritage helps to distinguish your town from the next one down the road, since no other place can duplicate your town’s history. Marketing gurus say "differentiation" is a key ingredient in sales (and what are tourism campaigns if not an advertisement for a community?), so use your heritage to distinguish your town.

  3. A quality heritage tourism programs helps preserve the historic fabric of your community, since heritage travelers would rather stay in a historic B&B, for example, than an impersonal boxy motel.