April 2, 2021 by Jennifer Wesselhoff
In my last post, I talked about meeting national-level tourism managers whose policies can resonate with Park City's challenges. Hawaii's destination management plans will put resident sentiment on equal footing with traditional metrics like total visitor expenditures. "Malam Hawaii" links travelers' desire for authentic connection with volunteer opportunities, and business is getting on board. Alaska Airlines will plant 900 new native trees; a project visitors are welcome to join. Some hotels are offering free nights to those who "voluntour."
Colorado Tourism Office Director Cathy Ritter's "Are you Colo-Ready?" programs include dispersing visitors from congested areas, promoting environmental ethics, and creating alliances to push a message of environmental responsibility to all, especially visitors.
Park City can benefit from models like these. I have experience developing similar programs in Sedona AZ.
Let's clarify what we mean by a couple of key phrases, starting with "sustainable tourism." Two of its most important tenets are connection, meaning, and balance. A sustainable tourism philosophy in Park City will:
Connect visitors with Park City residents and our values.
Connect visitors with the land so they feel our respect and love and behave responsibly.
Connect residents to our local businesses to help put a human face on the "tourism economy."
Connect travelers with locally owned companies so they appreciate what it means to support our local economy.
For the last few years, travelers have been telling researchers they want to know their destination communities and feel a part of them. The connections above add meaning to the Park City experience visitors say they seek.
Once you see the possibilities, you can imagine other synergies that help create connections and build upon the great sense of pride in our community. Connecting visitors with transit can ease traffic snarls; connecting locals and visitors through voluntourism fosters human understanding.
Today, we are in the earliest stages of adding connection and meaning. The Tastemaker Video Series is an example; connecting visitors – and locals - to restaurant owners.
Another term we should clarify is "tourism management." Foremost, tourism management balances a thriving economy and visitor experience while enhancing our quality of life and protecting the environment. It’s about honestly acknowledging the tradeoffs and realities of a tourism economy and using the “power of the good” of the industry to offset what some perceive as negative impacts.
Tourism management seeks to balance what brought us to Park City in the first place – the quality of life, outdoor space, sense of small-town community, and the opportunity to live in an incredible year-round environment – with what keeps Park City going - an economy fueled by travelers and the experiences they love and want to repeat.
Tourism management is different everywhere, depending on the local definition of balance strategies. But open-mindedness is always critical, including seeing issues from others' perspectives. You might be surprised to know that visitors share our concern for keeping our environment pristine. Industry research proves it.
Tourism management reacts to that information with outreach that shows travelers how to practice the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace or programs that get them involved in volunteer trail maintenance during their stay. They get the satisfaction of giving back, and they buy into Park City values. They naturally become advocates through their social media and personal networks. We get to know them – and perhaps start seeing travelers as kindred spirits!
The Chamber|Bureau is in a good position to help get the discussions going. We are the only local Destination Marketing Organization, in daily contact with visitors, businesses, employees, and residents. DMOs traditionally focus on marketing – so moving into the realm of tourism management would be a new responsibility and require a community-wide commitment. But I'm confident the Chamber|Bureau – and Park City – are ready to see post-pandemic tourism with fresh eyes.