excerpts from The Triple Bottom Line of Tourism - Business Sense by Tony Smithers. We will make additional articles and information available in the future. Please contact us with your suggestions, articles and related information.
Here's the article, cited with Tony's permission -
Every business is familiar with the bottom line. After all of your costs are subtracted, how much is left over? And how do those profits compare with the money you put into the business -- what's the return on investment?
At the Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau we have taken great pains to demonstrate our financial return on investment, particularly for the City of Eureka and County of Humboldt who allocate about 30 percent and 20 percent of transient occupancy tax collections, respectively, for tourism marketing and hospitality. Using a variety of research tools to calculate the number of tourists we influence to visit and stay on the Redwood Coast, and how much they spend, we know that these investments are recouped through tax collections alone (not to mention the $260 million that is pumped into the local economy by out-of-town visitors).
As good as this return on investment is, dollars are only one way to measure the value of a strong and growing tourism industry. Over the past decade, the concept of the “triple bottom line” has been adopted by many economists. In a nutshell, the triple bottom line reflects the belief that an activity's social and environmental impacts are just as important as the financial outcome. The triple bottom line has been used to demand corporate responsibility (something talked about in every local coffee house), though many people feel that business can help society best by doing what it's good at: creating wealth.
I don't want to debate the validity of the triple bottom line -- I merely want to make the case that our visitor industry does more than generate profits and tax revenues. Tourism is a positive force in Humboldt County, with social and environmental consequences reflecting the finest values of our community.
Even before the triple bottom line revved up to buzzword status, we used to talk about how tourism as an economic activity had minimal impact on our environment. We don't need to build factories or power plants to serve visitors. Our market research consistently confirms that the redwoods, the beaches and scenic beauty are the top three draws for our destination. By playing to these strengths in our marketing campaigns, we naturally select for a visitor who cherishes the environment as much as we do, and who will tread lightly in our wild places. Through use fees, park concessions, charitable donations to groups like Save-the-Redwoods League, and even through hunting and fishing licenses, these visitors also contribute monetarily to programs that preserve, protect and restore our natural resources.
Of course, bottom line accounting demands that we also look at the environmental deficits caused by tourism, and somehow weigh them against the positive impacts-something I have no idea how to calculate (I wouldn't know a carbon credit if it bit me). Nonetheless, we should recognize that tourists use water and electricity, generate waste and drive automobiles in Humboldt County. The industry trend toward “green” hotels-to be locally consummated, we hope, by the Eco-Hostel project still in the works -- shows that the environmental impact of tourism can be reduced ... and might even become a marketing strategy. And at least our visitors get out of their cars to hike our lion-infested trails, unlike the perpetual parking-lot experience Yosemite has become.
We are a great place to visit because we are a great place to live. The reverse of this axiom is not always true, as evidenced by many “tourist towns” that are culturally sterile and socially isolating. But even though tourism is the cart and community is the horse, I see tourism having a very positive impact on our social fabric-the third bottom line.
Most easily quantified is the employment that our industry sustains in Humboldt County: nearly 5,000 jobs, from front desk clerks to wait staff, from tour guides to innkeepers. The ability to support oneself and everything that entails bank accounts, a place to live, marriage, family, leisure, volunteering and more -- is the basis for our civil society. Tourism does a lot to keep that ball rolling around here, and through the power of free enterprise offers one of the best hopes we have for providing our young people with opportunities without them having to leave the county.
One can also argue that tourism improves livability in our communities by supporting businesses and institutions that contribute to our quality of life. Without visitors, there would be fewer restaurants to enjoy, fewer stores to shop in, fewer museums and galleries where we can appreciate our heritage and culture, fewer events to attend and fewer trails and amenities in our public lands. We might not have experienced the renaissance of Old Town or the preservation of Ferndale without tourism to motivate the desire for change in the former and for stasis in the latter.
If there are any social drawbacks to having 1,300,000 visitors drop by each year, I'm not aware of them.
Tony Smithers is executive director of the Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 444-6635, firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the bureau and its activities, visit http://www.redwoods.info.
Maintain the integrity of communities, with improvements intended to reflect and conserve the distinctive character of each area’s environment and local heritage.
Encourage growth in tourism segments most likely to appreciate and respect the unique qualities of the Northern California Coast and its communities.
BLM. National Geographic Society & 5 U.S. Agencies Sign National Agreement to Embrace Geotourism & Expanding Conservation Efforts. . BLM. 2009-02-12. URL:http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/prog/blm_special_areas/nm/ccnm/update_archives/planning_update_08-31-08.html. Accessed: 2009-02-12. (Archived by WebCite® at www.webcitation.org/5eXNyb4xN)