Tourism: A Foundation for “Place” Building

Untitled designI was recently asked to submit a proposal for a talk at an economic development conference. The submission got me thinking that the topic would make a good blog post.

The idea is to think of  tourism as economic development. This is a subject that is right up my alley. I am a big believer that tourism is much bigger than tourism itself and is a foundation for community and place building as part of a bigger economic development vision and plan.

Essentially, how I see this topic is as follows: In a post industrial economy “Quality of Place” is a major economic driver. People want live and work in nice places. The nicer the place the more desirable it is and as a place where economic development can thrive.

Tourism plays an important role in maintaining and adding value to communities. Typically a community that has a vibrant tourism industry has a healthy and vibrant quality of place. Quality of place can be defined many ways but typically it means, nice downtowns with cafe’s, nice shops and restaurants, access to trails and other outdoor amenities such as; waterfront, woods, parks. Amenities, such as libraries, community centres, etc … also contribute to quality of place. My colleague and I were speaking about wineries, craft breweries, distilleries, located in towns and in rural areas. All of this adds to quality of place.

In the competition for talent or workers, those communities that have the highest quality of place will retain talent ( a key factor in economic development) and attract talent ( a key in driving growth and investment). Even industry and traditional manufacturers are seeking out communities that have great “Quality of Place” as they too need to retain and attract talent to work at their facilities.

The direct benefits of tourism are many and mostly obvious. Tourism is an “export industry” which means that outside or new money comes into a community. This creates wealth and has a ripple and multiplier effect on the local economy.

The other thing that tourism often does when done well is to help brand a community and supports or enhances its identity. This is extremely important in today’s noisy environment of information overload.

Tourism also offers leverage-able marketing opportunities. Tourism offers up numerous public relations opportunities to bring low cost, high volume and high reach exposure. In other words tourism presents opportunities for communities to gain exposure, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally and in some instances gain hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of essentially free advertising. Here is a free report that shows my formula build a successful destination.

All of the above ads up to tourism being a highly impactful strategy to build a community and an economy, beyond tourism directly. From my perspective tourism should be a fully integrated part of any economic development plan or strategy. It should not be in a silo and should not be considered in isolation as a stand alone sector. It is part of the bigger picture.

How does your community view tourism? As a stand alone sector or part of an intergrated approach. Can you see the positive effects of tourism on your community’s quality of place? Please comment, I’d enjoy hearing about your thoughts and experiences.

I’ve just release a FREE 9 Step Formula For Tourism Destination Marketing Success available for immediate download here.




I work with companies throughout their life cycle – from start ups, to expansions to exit strategies and the sale of the company. My clients are from the private sector and public sector including economic development and tourism based organizations.

I offer FREE 60 minute strategy sessions to get  people started or back on track. For more information e-mail me or give me a call today.

For my FREE 9 Step Formula For Tourism Destination Marketing Success click here.


  1. Robert Borchard

    Dan, I enjoyed your article and I’ve shared it with my little circle of friends. I live in a “Tourist” town, with an economy dominated by “tourism”. It has some down sides but I think you are right about the “quality of life” issue. We have been working on a concept of developing an Economic Development program that focuses on “Cultural Tourism”. that I would like to share with you. I would be very interested in YOUR thoughts and comments. Thanks, Bob

  2. Natalia

    Very interesting read. I live in Perth, Western Australia. A city that has had a significant growth in the past few years and has changed its urban fabric dramatically. However, tourism in my opinion is not as well structured as it is in the eastern states meaning Melbourne and Sydney. The place branding strategy is unclear and even though there are many completed large scale projects and some under way, the question remains what are we? What differentiate us from others?. Tourism within the metropolitan area is heavily focused on the CBD and as the boundaries are small, many other hot spots fall under different councils missing out on potential visitors.

  3. Raqib

    A very interesting article. Tourism is indeed much bigger than the term itself. “Quality of Place” determines if a place can be attractive to tourists or not. When “Quality of Place” is raised, other pillars of a “happy city” will rise as well. Economic, social and environmental aspects of a tourist city is much better than a normal city. People living in those cities are always feeling more to offer and get back in response. These all can be seen in many developed countries. On the other hand a mixture of culture and ethnicity always helps to boost these activities. Many believe that only developed countries can be a good place for tourists. However one can argue that with better social conditions any other developing country can offer a good time to its visitors as well. One can say that a tourist city is not always clean, but rather has different cultures and things to offer. My country, Afghanistan has lots of beautiful cities and places to be seen, however it is unreachable to many. As a resident of the country and many others like me are yet to see these places. Unfortunately due to the ongoing troubles that our country is facing, the world is missing the beauty of both its nature and geography. India on other hand is a good example where it is visited by many and yet it is not comparable to any other developed country. As you mentioned tourism can play a very positive role in building a city and country in general and give it a unique and valuable identity. I hope that we will have the opportunity to do so in our country.

    Thank you for sharing a beautiful article.

  4. Dee Wines

    I agree with your position that ‘place’ is an important economic driver. Industrial Memory and the Meaning of ‘Place’ was the focus of my dissertation. ‘Place’ and the creation of ‘Place’ is critical to the vibrancy and long-term stability of a community. In a post-industrial setting, you may typically expect a city or town to shrink in population as people leave to pursue work elsewhere. In some cases, such as the focus of my research, the town may experience population growth, which indicates the importance of place and its ability to attract talent or tourist, either through it’s natural physical setting and geography or by what the ‘place’ offers in terms or culture or lifestyle. With the rise of the Creative Class and Culture Economy, ‘Place’ becomes more important that ever. If people, through the evolution of technology and remote work environments, can live and work any where they chose, then ‘place’ and what ‘place’ offers is critical in terms of drawing and attracting new workers/talent and new residents. The social needs of the person, along with quality of life desires, play an import role in one’s decision on where they will live and spend their time. ‘Place’ then, does indeed drive economies, first by attracting full-time residents and talent in the creative class and secondarily by drawing tourists in the emerging Culture Economy, where what a ‘place’ offers in terms of setting (parks, rivers, trails, lakes, scenery) and amenities (museums, theaters, arts, restaurants, etc.) is as important, if not more important, than the goods that place or community may have once produced as an industrial center.

  5. Leonardo Gioffrè

    Thanks for sharing the article! We have lately started from the same assumption to build an integrated development plan for a local community in Italy. As soon as I will publish an english version I would be glad and curious to share it with you.

  6. juanita L Gable

    I am curious as to the tipping point wherein tourism becomes an inhibitor to a more diverse and stable economy. As a recent transplant to Naples, Florida, it is easy to see how tourism and real estate are, literally, the only industries in town. Highly seasonal, the town purges snow-birds come spring leaving many in a state of depleted funds, but blissfully able to get around in a fraction of the time it took only a few weeks ago. With such mood swings in the environment, at what point is tourism preventing a more stable economic base from developing?

    • dantaylor


      I think seeking balance is key. A tourism only economy does not sound healthy or balanced to me. My article was making and argument that tourism can contribute to quality of place and be a building block for developing an economy. Not the be all and end all. Thank-you for your comment.


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