The power of tourism is evident in many larger cities but it may be even more crucial today in America's traditionally rural communities.
The nature of tourism is like everything else in our economic and sociological development - always changing. Today's travelers don't necessarily want to go fight traffic, wade through thousands of other traveler's, and pay outlandish prices at someplace described as, or akin to, the "happiest place on earth".
Instead there has been a shift. Increasing numbers of travelers are seeking out more authentic and laid back destinations. Someplace out of the way, where they can unwind as opposed to getting wound up.
This shift has brought on a major trend for rural communities who possess the characteristics this new breed of traveler is seeking. Historical sites and communities with a rich history of their development and resilience. Revitalized downtown shopping districts often featuring a refurbished theater of some kind. Picturesque scenery and roads which are beautiful trips in and of themselves.
So tourism in rural America is the new craze, and it should be. The impact of successful tourism ventures in rural communities has become THE economic driver. Travelers stop in to town and spend their dollars for lodging, for dining, recreation, shopping, entertainment, etc. We’ve all done it – what do you spend your money on when you go on vacation? And the community you spend it in thanks you.
In order for rural communities to launch successful tourism campaigns they must first be real about who they are. What are the assets they possess and how best to maximize their potential? When thinking of this, it is important to note, this new breed of tourist - wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle, the crowds and the social media (ok, maybe they still want their social media ) but away from what they see everyday – have formed three broad categories which draw them to rural communities for their vacation time and their vacation dollars. They are:
Cultural and heritage pursuits. This doesn’t have to be seeing Civil War battlefields, or hiking along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Many times visiting an area that simply has a fascinating origin and perseverance are often cited as draws in rural communities. And they don’t act as tourist traps.
Scenic highways and byways are an interesting draw. Driving down Route 66, the A1A, or the Pacific Coast Highway are not the only wonderful drives in our vast and diverse country. Again it comes down to not doing what everyone else is doing. Friends of mine put the kids in the backseat and toured all of Iowa’s covered bridges, stopping for the night in towns nearby and they talk about it like it was Heaven.
Outdoor recreation opportunities are huge with this generation and it definitely makes a difference in how people choose where they spend their few vacation days. These activities vary greatly from region to region but guaranteed, almost every rural community has something to offer. Surfing, hunting, fishing, kayaking – there is no shortage of things to do outdoors.
If you have read to this point it has probably struck you already – Port Lavaca is primed to be a major tourism player on the Coastal Bend. Just look at what we have to offer.
Cultural history and a downtown shopping district with a charming theatre? Check. In just a short while this area could be a gem in the Port Lavaca area.
Scenic highways and byways? Check. Moving here from the Midwest, I am still often amazed at some of the landscapes, bayous and views of the Gulf I catch as I drive to one locale or another. In all honesty, they are really beautiful. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what is there everyday for us, but for tourists these drives would be appreciated.
Outdoor recreation opportunities? Check and double check. Great fishing in the Gulf, hiking, kayaking, and bird watching are all some of the best in the region.
Our area has the assets to be a very successful, dynamic, profitable tourism community. It’s up to us to let the rest of the world know about it.