Security concerns, fuel prices, lack of time or money, having kids or growing old. There are a variety of reasons why people are travelling closer to home these days. As tourism operators, it is important to recognize the importance of attracting not only to the visitors of your community, but local residents as well.
So much time, effort and resources are put into attracting tourists to come to a tourism region, but what is being done to cater to people who live there all the time?
I have now lived in three cities, and one thing I have heard residents say in each of them is that there is nothing to do. The fact is, all three of these cities are tourism friendly destinations that people travel significant distances to visit… so clearly there are things to do in each of them!
Catering to local residents has many advantages. Let’s briefly outline a few of them.
- Keep money in local economy. If you attract 100 tourists to your destination through marketing efforts, and 100 local residents travel somewhere else, what is the net impact? By keeping local residents in your community, they are likely to spend money at attractions, events, and restaurants that would have gone to benefit another community. This helps keep people and money close to home!
- Expose residents to their own gems. I spoke earlier of how people can live in a community and yet still say there is nothing to do there. More often then not, this is simply because they do not know of the great attractions and assets that are close by. By attracting local residents, they will have more pride in their community and support tourism development in the future.
- Word of mouth. Isn’t it great advertising to have local residents telling friends and family that there is nothing to do in their own community? By attracting local residents to your tourism products, they will become ambassadors to outsiders, and more likely to recommend these attractions to visiting friends, families, and even strangers!
- Repeat customers. The great thing about local tourists is that they are close to home. With no travel time, if you provide a great experience, they will be more likely to visit again. With no travel expenses, they may even spend more money too!
- Resiliency. If your tourism assets are heavily dependent upon external markets for visitors and revenue, they are susceptible to economic influences outside of your control. Case and point, when family budgets tighten, they stay closer to home. By maintaining a connection with local visitors, tourism operators will be less impacted by a shrinking external tourism market.