The Key to Economic Recovery & Survival
In a nation where tourism is one of our leading industries and employs thousands of people, it is hard to understand why so many communities are struggling for economic survival. After all, every community has tourism potential and could prosper form a successful tourism program.
Nevertheless, small towns all over the country continue to complain about their declining populations and bemoan the fact that their young people are leaving because there are not enough jobs. Their residents meet in local coffee shops and bars to commiserate with each other about the declining state of their communities and wring their hands in frustration as if there was nothing they could do about it as the rest of the world passes them by.
Many are senior citizens who have resigned themselves to the role of passive observers watching as their towns deteriorate and a little bit of their heritage dies with them every day. Heritage tourism offers the residents of every community, young and old alike, the opportunity to join together and showcase their heritage to the rest of the world as a tourist attraction.
They can develop a central theme indigenous to their communities and develop that theme within the context of a long-term marketing plan to attract new jobs and new revenues to the area. They can polish and plump their old homes and historic buildings and sites to their former luster to bring new meaning to the past and preserve it for themselves while sharing it with others. Unfortunately most people do not view tourism as an economic developer. Their idea of economic development is usually in the form of a new factory or manufacturing plant which produces some tangible product and provides blue collar employment for several hundred people. They do not understand that the country has shifted from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-oriented economy since World War II.
It is wishful thinking for most communities to believe that they are going to attract a major plant or even a major retailer to be their salvation. In the meantime, heritage tourism can help communities change the course of their futures immediately instead of betting on the remote possibility of the fairy godmother coming to their rescue someday.
Heritage tourism is based on each community’s unique heritage - it cannot be enticed away like the fickle silo and smokestack industries which are here today and gone tomorrow. It should serve as the umbrella to all other community ventures.
Jacqueline L. Evans