Tourism isn’t just about attracting people to a community, but also about building a sense of community among those that already live and work there.
Making community engagement a priority in tourism planning provides an opportunity for residents to showcase their community’s unique character and culture. Destinations already involve their communities in varying ways, but here’s a list of some of the ways I’ve seen it done creatively.
Cultural festivals are a fantastic way to engage the community and attract visitors from outside the area. These festivals celebrate the unique aspects of a particular culture, showcasing their customs, art, food, dance, and more. By showcasing their cultural heritage, communities can attract a diverse range of visitors and promote cross-cultural understanding. Cultural festivals can also provide opportunities for local businesses to sell their products and services to tourists, creating a boost in revenue for the local economy.
Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and camping are becoming increasingly popular among tourists. By promoting the natural beauty of a region and offering outdoor activities, communities can attract tourists who are interested in adventure and the great outdoors. This type of tourism can also have a positive impact on the environment, as it encourages visitors to appreciate and preserve natural resources.
Community-based tourism is an approach that puts community engagement at the center of tourism activities. This approach involves working closely with local residents to develop tourism products and services that are authentic, sustainable, and beneficial to the community. By involving the community in the tourism industry, local residents can benefit from increased income, improved infrastructure, and greater cultural exchange.
Volunteer tourism is a form of sustainable tourism that involves tourists working alongside local communities on projects that benefit the local environment or community. This type of tourism provides an opportunity for tourists to learn about local issues and contribute to positive change, while also experiencing the local culture and community. By involving tourists in community projects, local residents can benefit from increased resources, while tourists gain a deeper understanding of the local community.
Agritourism is a type of tourism that involves visiting farms, ranches, and vineyards to learn about local agriculture and food production. This type of tourism can provide opportunities for visitors to experience the rural lifestyle and learn about the local food culture. By promoting agritourism, communities can create new economic opportunities for local farmers and ranchers.
Ecotourism is a form of sustainable tourism that promotes environmental conservation and education. This type of tourism involves visiting natural areas, such as national parks or wildlife reserves, and learning about the local ecosystems and biodiversity. By promoting ecotourism, communities can attract visitors who are interested in nature and conservation, while also raising awareness about environmental issues.
Ecotourism also provides a lighter load on infrastructure and resources — a common result of overtourism.
Heritage tourism involves visiting historic sites and landmarks to learn about the history and culture of a region. This type of tourism can provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the local community’s history and cultural heritage. By promoting heritage tourism, communities can create new economic opportunities for local businesses, while also preserving and celebrating the community’s history and cultural identity.
Culinary tourism involves visiting a region to taste local cuisine and learn about the local food culture. This type of tourism can provide opportunities for visitors to learn about local food production and culinary traditions. By promoting culinary tourism, communities can create new economic opportunities for local restaurants, food producers, and farmers.
Any of these options allow your community to showcase what makes them unique and what they’re proudest of. This type of community engagement reduces the burden of event logistics and sitting in town halls — you know the ones, where there’s always some grumpy person in the back that believes yelling solves our community’s problems.