When Tourism Dominates Your Local Economy

Photo Credit: Industry City

Photo Credit: Industry City

Tourism is an economic cornerstone in many communities. It can attract visitors from across the country or the world, and serve as a major industry and employer.

If tourism’s the only game in town, however, it can create problems that will be familiar to almost any tourist community.

When tourism dominates, you have lots of jobs in hotels and the service industry, but not much else. That means young people entering the workforce don’t have many options, and professionals further in their careers don’t have room to grow. It also means workers in other industries might have a hard time moving to your town, even if they wanted to.

When tourism dominates, it also means your economy is vulnerable to downturns. When international markets cool, so does local business. Without other industries to pick up the economic slack during times of hardship or even just the off-season, your entire region can feel the impact all at once.

When tourism dominates, it also means locals can feel left out of their own hometown. Your town might have great hotels and attractions for visitors but if it lacks places where locals can come together with their neighbors and participate in a community that represents who they are, their skills, and their needs. It will erode your own community’s investment in the place they call home.

And connected to that last point, when tourism dominates, it means you’re missing a chance to let local talent shine. People in your community almost certainly have talents and skills that could be the foundation of new small businesses, if they had support. If you’re focused solely on tourism, you could be missing these opportunities to create new, homegrown jobs and services, and a stronger economy.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is an example of this problem in action. Myrtle Beach’s beaches have deep white sand and sparkling surf that goes on for miles, and it makes total sense that tourism is a major part of their economy. But with that singular focus, they’ve been vulnerable to unpredictability in the local economy from those visitors and are missing good middle income jobs from the local economy. Plus many of the kids who grow up in Myrtle Beach leave after high school in search of those better paying jobs.

To address those challenges, the City of Myrtle Beach is investing in a new downtown that can better meet the needs of locals, support entrepreneurs who can create new good-paying jobs, and celebrate what makes Myrtle Beach unique to begin with - for the local residents and by the local residents.

Creating spaces for small-scale manufacturing is part of their plan. Businesses like Kentucky Mist Distillery and Kilwins candy shop add unique experiences to Myrtle Beach’s new downtown while also creating skilled jobs in something other than the service sector. These kinds of businesses can be assets to any local economy — but they often need unique collaboration with the city in order to take root.

Recast City helps build communities where small-scale manufacturing businesses thrive. Are you ready to thrive? Let's create a great place together.