Smart destination development is not just about bringing in the tourists. It’s about improving the destination for the locals as well. If the development is cool enough to attract locals to spend time and shop there, it’s going to attract visitors. As Roger Brooks puts it: “The tourists follow the lead of the locals.” If you develop the destination well, it will make the city/town cool enough to keep the young adults from leaving (or get them to move back). Think farmer’s markets, downtown plazas with concerts, outdoor movies, ice skating, outdoor cafes, great shops and restaurants – things that breathe life into the downtown.
If the young people leave and the population declines, others take notice… like airlines. In a recent news story. United announced that it was scaling down its presence at Cleveland Hopkins airport, citing massive annual losses and a population on the decline. With fewer flights, that means it’s harder for visitors to get to. It’s a downward cycle.
So when you think destination development, a huge part of the strategy is attracting locals.