Building Main Street, not Wall Street: Creating quality of life creates tourism

John Newby

John Newby

I recently came across what is known as the “The Destination Management Cycle” created by Maura Gast.

It states: “If you build a place where people want to live, you’ll build a place where people want to work. If you build a place where people want to work, you’ll build a place where business needs to be. If you build a place where business has to be, you’ll build a place where people have to visit. If you build a place people want to visit, you build a place where people want to live.”

Local businesses struggle to survive on only residential spending. Visitors make the difference between operating in the red or the black for many local businesses.  For many communities, there are few options to reverse the debilitating trend of local dollars leaving their community. So that begs the question, How can communities slow these trends that will only continue to intensify in the future? 

One sure way to slow the outflow of dollars leaving your community is finding ways to attract tourism. The value of tourism ought not be understated.  The power of tourism dollars can alter the economic landscape in your community.  It can restore the revitalization needed for communities to grow and ultimately compete for survival.  

Each community is different based on cost of living and variable economic conditions.  Studies indicate tourism brings approximately $500 per visit into a community over the average two-day stay. That figure includes hotel, gas, shopping, and food.  If your community attracts 10,000 additional tourists each year, that is an additional five million dollars circulating through your community. It gets better, studies also show those dollars get spent again, between three and seven times by those living within the local community. This is over fifteen million additional dollars circulating through your community each year. What will fifteen million additional dollars do for your local business base, the city coffers, and maintaining the infrastructure of your community?

Tourism is a high stakes game every community must pursue. Community leaders are shirking their fiduciary duties of office by not actively pursuing those dollars. How does a community build the machine that promotes and attracts tourism?  While there are many ways to grow this avenue of revenue, here is a simple three-step process. 

First, realize, understand, and promote the value and vision of tourism. Understand, regardless of where you are in the scheme of things, you must get to a point that you are doing the things to grow tourism.  This is the most important frame of mind community leaders can have when it comes to your community’s financial survival.

Secondly, find those unique things about your city and build upon them. Tourists seek new and unique experiences, not sameness. Tourists are seeking to find the heart and soul of a community, not the same old and easy to find everyday  experiences. Does your community have access to water, such as rivers or lakes?  Does your community have a niche such as music, history and/or art etc.? Find those niches and magnify them to the best of your ability.

Thirdly, support organizations willing to create events that magnify your community’s niches and talents. People travel for good events. Your events can be car or bike shows, food festivals, unique music festivals, veteran’s events, ethnic festivals, and the list is endless.  The real skill in this arena however is beyond just creating these events. Every event you concentrate community resources towards should be one that can ultimately grow into a multiday event.  Those are the events that attract the high stakes tourism dollars that make an impact your community needs.

Help your town with business retention by keeping tourism and downtown/Main Street/Chamber partners engaged, highlighting what they do for your community. Help with business development.  Make sure you have website and blog content that tells a compelling story of your destination, downtown, or district. This will help entice both local entrepreneurship and prospective outside businesses to your area. Be the “one stop shop” for all information about your destination, with a clear path on your website that leads people to additional relevant sites if they're interested in relocating or starting/moving a business.

I started with a quote, let me end with one. Bill Geist has often stated when referring to tourism, “We have to understand the work we do is indeed economic development – it’s a key tenet and it makes cash-in-hand possible, because when travelers arrive, they don’t come with the promises of spending – they spend right now.”

John Newby, Pineville, MO. is a nationally recognized publisher, community, business & media consultant, and speaker. He authors “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” a column appearing in 50+ communities. He is the founder of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communities create excitement, energy, and combining synergies with local media to become more vibrant and competitive. His email is: