Every time I hear a politician with a plan to increase the tourism economy, I cringe a little. I’m a resident of New Hampshire, a real tourist destination. I realize how important that part of the economy was to our economy in the recent past. The future of tourism looks a bit sketchy to me.
Tourism relies on a number of factors. Those who promote tourism act like all you need is a place that people will want to go to and to promote the heck out of it. There are other concerns. Tourism assumes people will be able to travel. It assumes they will have money and time to spare.
Working people are putting in as many hours as possible. I know of folks who are afraid of taking even the few weeks of vacation they have coming. Others work without vacations and competition is rough out there.
Real wages for the middle class haven’t gone up since the 70‘s. That doesn’t point towards people having a lot of excess cash to vacation with. I think that’s a contributing factor to people taking shorter vacations. Instead of two weeks at the lake, they may only stay 3 or 4 days.
High fuel prices can destroy the vacation economy all by itself. It’s the big expense for airlines. They can’t absorb higher fuel costs and must pass them on. If the price of fuel doubles, how many big RVs do you think you’ll see on the road? Already, my lovely wife and I have noticed that campgrounds have a lot more local people in them. I’ve met many a camper who travels less than 75 miles. Many say they used to travel further, but no longer.
While a local region might benefit from tourism, the whole country can’t run that way. Tourism depends on the surplus from areas that produce things. Someone has to be generating wealth. Otherwise it’s like a town that tries to get rich by everyone taking in each other’s laundry. That’s about as effective as your typical perpetual motion machine.
In my region there’s been an attempt to replace lost manufacturing jobs with tourism jobs. It might help keep the unemployment numbers lower than what they would be otherwise, but most tourism jobs pay a lot less than manufacturing. Often it’s a different group of people who gets those new jobs. How many 50 year old former pipe fitters do you see waiting tables?
I’m not saying that tourism is all bad. I’m glad it puts pressure on the state to keep our environment clean so that people will want to come here. There’s incentive to keep wild areas wild and beautiful. However, I don’t think tourism is the foundation to a solid economy.
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