There is no denying the importance that community plays in tourism. As businesses begin and grow, they heavily rely on the support of those around them. And a thriving tourism sector can have a massive impact on the local economy and quality of life of residents. Over half of Albertans believe that a strong tourism industry improves their quality of life, and 61% believe that tourism plays an important role in their local community.
How community supports tourism
1. Supports local businesses
Whether a tourism business is just starting or has been around for years, what keeps them afloat is the financial support of neighbors and the local population. The owners and staff of a tourism business love feeling like they are a part of a community and the regulars who walk through their doors help achieve that. Dr. Jordan Ramey, co-owner of Burwood Distillery in Calgary, said this about why him and his partners picked the Currie Barracks for their new location:
“We knew that to tell the Burwood story, we had to engage with the community. What we do in the back is directly tied to who we engage with in the front, and this location is key to getting the community involved.”
2. Spreads the word to friends and family
Whether they have friends visiting from out of town or tell a neighbor about the winter glamping experience they just enjoyed, that word-of-mouth could be the difference in success for a tourism business. Our recent Stone-Olafson survey revealed that 72% of Albertans believed their area offered experiences they wanted to tell others about. Members of a community can positively influence the awareness and perception of a tourism experience and it’s not taken for granted by operators.
3. Local business partnerships
Community impact does not sit on the shoulders of residents alone, but also the businesses that agree to partnership opportunities. A partnership can diversify offerings, improve brand image and differentiate the business from competitors. More importantly, it can further strengthen that sense of community where people feel like they belong.
4. Provides valuable feedback on tourism development
A healthy and strong tourism industry wouldn’t be possible without the consideration of community needs. As such, residents and local businesses can participate in meetings and surveys to shape the tourism development occurring in their area. When the community feels considered, they are more likely to support those tourism businesses and build a thriving local economy.
Benefits of tourism within communities
1. Creates diverse jobs
Tourism is one way to diversify Alberta’s economy to ensure long-term sustainability and resilience. Our recent resident sentiment survey showed that 82% of Albertans felt that tourism is important to economic diversity and 84% believe that tourism encourages investment in the local economy. It creates exciting job opportunities that promise long-term professional development. As tourism in a region grows, indirect jobs are created, such as infrastructure maintenance or providing product and services that support these tourism businesses.
2. Amplifies Indigenous culture
Indigenous tourism continues to increase in popularity across the country as people strive to learn more about Indigenous culture and ways of life. Through tourism, Indigenous Peoples share their stories and knowledge of the nature around them to locals and visitors alike, all while bringing in an income that supports their communities. It’s a unique opportunity to amplify their culture to those willing to listen.
Want an example of how tourism supports Indigenous businesses? Read Mahikan Trail’s story here.
3. Celebrates the local cultures
Tourism experiences are an expression of the local fabric that makes up a community. It brings people together to try new experiences, offers opportunities to sample local taste of place, and celebrates the various cultures through events and festivals. Tourism lets communities share their local pride. Authentic experiences are becoming increasingly popular – an incredible opportunity for residents to share what makes their communities unique.
4. Draws visitors (and their wallets) to your town
When tourism experiences attract domestic and international travellers, that means money is injected into a neighborhood and therefore making it more prosperous. Visitors need somewhere to eat, shop and sleep. Their dollars are not just going to the ski hill half an hour away, but also to the restaurants, rental cars, gas stations, gift shops and many other amenities throughout their trip.
5. You have something cool to do nearby!
As more tourism experiences pop up in an area, fewer family and friends will say there is nothing to do on the weekend. Over 50% of Albertans recognized that they have more recreational opportunities in their area because of tourism. You don’t have to travel far to do something unique and memorable. Whether that’s enjoying a local festival or zooming down an alpine coaster through a forest, tourism creates social activities for all to enjoy.
6. Improved infrastructure and facilities
When sustainability is front of mind, focus is placed on ensuring the infrastructure and facilities can handle the increased traffic from out-of-town visitors. The improved amenities are a natural benefit for permanent residents. For rural areas, this could look like better roads or improved utilities, such as cell service or water supply.
7. Preserves the natural environment
Alberta’s wildlife and unique landscape is a point of pride among operators. Travel Alberta works closely with operators as they develop experiences to ensure the natural environment is considered and protected. For example, the migration bridges in Banff National Park was an eco-tourism initiative that was recognized worldwide for the impact it had on preserving the natural environment.