Tourism and Economic Development Go Hand in Hand

  • By Paige Alost
  • May 11, 2018

Editor’s Note: May 7-12 has been designated as National Economic Development Week by the International Economic Development Council. The Athens County Economic Development Council is recognizing this week through a series of submitted articles in The Athens Messenger.

It should come as no surprise that May 7-12 is both National Economic Development Week and National Travel and Tourism Week. These two celebrations reflect the importance and success of both traditional economic development practices and destination promotion efforts. In Athens County and Southeast Ohio, it takes a combination of both efforts to bring our region’s economy forward and create thriving opportunities for residents and visitors.

Created in 1988, the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau serves as the official Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Athens County. During this time the region has experienced great advances in the visitor economy. This impact is measured every other year in a state-wide county tourism impact study conducted by Longwoods International, an international company specializing in measuring the economic impact and trends in the destination marketing. In 2009, the Athens County tourism economy reported annual visitor spending of $112 million dollars. By comparison, 2015 visitor spending in Athens County topped $154 million — a 37.5 percent increase in six years.

It has been the mantra of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau that tourism is really just a by-product of great community development. But it takes more than just good community development to get visitors to the region. Funding from transient guest taxes on overnight stays is invested in promoting Athens County as a destination for visitors. Marketing, advertising, strategic communication, digital content, collateral development and product development are all important tools used in by the ACCVB in sharing the great story of Athens County. These efforts can take the story of Athens County to far-reaching places, encouraging people to find out more about the region.

But tourism messaging goes well beyond attracting visitors. In 2015, Longwoods International released a study suggesting tourism promotion and advertising creates a “Halo Effect”, implying success experienced in a destination’s tourism promotion efforts would extend beyond its image as a great place for visitors. When tourism promotion is successful in getting people to a destination, those people are more likely to then consider that destination as a great place to live, to attend school, to start a career, to retire or to buy a vacation home.

Destination promotion serves a true catalyst for economic development. It builds awareness, creates familiarity and grows relationships in networks that are critical for the success and expansion of businesses in the region. The tourism economy not only generates taxes and creates jobs, but tourism promotion propels economic growth by sustaining the things we love and need — from the basic infrastructure of roads and buildings to great restaurants and shops, outdoor recreation and the arts. This directly impacts and improves the quality of life of local residents. In turn, the unique local culture developed by locals and supported by tourism then makes the community even more attractive to investors and those looking to locate businesses to the region.

The best part about sharing the great stories of Athens County with visitors is the true authenticity of what is happening in our region. Creativity, sustainability and good old-fashioned ingenuity are all at work here, and good things are happening.

Paige Alost is the executive director of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau.