Travel and tourism present the opportunity to explore or relax in a new location, visit family and friends, attend industry conferences or meet with colleagues. Regardless of reason, it is a powerful industry.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the 2017 total contribution of travel and tourism to the United States gross domestic product was $1.5 billion, or 7.7 percent of GDP. To start exploring how a city can capitalize on travel and tourism, our JLL team recommends three complementary principles to begin guiding a successful planning process for any city or destination.
1. Measure Engagement
First, it is paramount to ensure stakeholders are engaged from the start. Stakeholders may include convention and visitors bureau leaders, city officials, economic development leadership, residents and business owners. For example, JLL connected with more than 1,800 individuals during the 12-month planning process for a destination strategic plan for Wake County, N.C., through steering committee meetings, survey responses and focus groups.
2. Assess Existing Infrastructure
Assessing a city’s tourism infrastructure and destination development needs will help leverage the city’s existing strengths and determine potential opportunities. Consider a sports arena that serves as the neighborhood’s anchor asset but requires more restaurants and hotels to create density and cater to visitors who want to stay near the event space. While maintaining close connections with local developers, communities should take inventory of available lodging, methods of transportation and food, beverage and entertainment outlets while vetting the relevance and feasibility of repurposing or redeveloping land parcels. This practice is critical to creating a place worthy of visiting.
3. Get to Know Your Visitors
Understanding who the visitors are and why they are visiting a city is essential for cultivating experiences and executing meetings and events. According to the U.S. Travel Association, three-quarters of domestic trips taken are for leisure purposes, totaling $716.7 billion in direct spending. This creates an opportunity to build unique, hyper-local experiences that are growing in popularity and driving overnight stays.
Communities can invest in visitor research and profiles and partner with stakeholders to learn about a city’s authentic experiences, such as food tours, local retailer offerings, museum exhibits and hiking trails. For business-oriented visitors, the experience may be more structured. A strategic booking policy based upon number of rooms being reserved and the food and beverage spend can guide staff on how to prioritize scheduling events.
Strategies to boost a destination’s share of travel and tourism need to be as unique as the given city itself, but the consistent factor to increase travel and tourism is engagement, investment and collaboration.
Dan Fenton is EVP, JLL, Hotels & Hospitality, Tourism and Destination Development Services.