Sustainable Tourism Development
A key focus for the local tourism industry will need to be the collaborative management of natural and cultural assets, and avoiding potential damage from overuse in popular areas.
Sustainable Tourism is emerging as a major driving force in destination development, especially in the Pacific Northwest. One of the goals of the Strategic Tourism Plan is that Snohomish County will seek to become a premier destination for environmentally and fiscally sustainable recreation and tourism. Sustainable Tourism is "Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.
Principles of Sustainable Tourism
Sustainable tourism principles offer a good guiding framework to support destination development, especially in the rural and coastal areas.
Sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability. The industry has defined sustainable tourism as being guided by these principles:
1. Is integrated with and respectful of the culture, homeland, heritage and people of a place.
2. Provides a unique experience for the visitor.
3. Generates localized economic development benefits.
4. Has a balancing or beneficial impact on the environment.
5. Generates revenue that is invested in conserving and enhancing the unique features of the community.
6. Provides an educational experience for the visitor that leaves them enriched and inspired to create positive change at home.
7. Encourages diverse parties to work together to create new opportunities and to address common challenges.
8. Serves target markets that are profitable, with promising long-term viability.
Implications for Snohomish County Tourism
Snohomish County has the opportunity to implement strategies at a regional scale, that represent a contemporary and innovative approach to developing a future-facing sustainable tourism industry.
An analysis of past and future tourism industry trends highlights the need to be adaptive and responsive to changing trends. The global and domestic traveler is evolving, and will be more discerning and selective.
Snohomish County is well positioned to adapt and respond. There is either the existence, or the potential, for a quality tourism product or experience to appeal to almost any of the emergent tourist trends. Some of the obvious strengths of the industry are:
· It has a wide range of experiences in a relatively small geographic area. Within a 45-minute drive, a visitor can move from a very modern and sophisticated urban environment to remote wilderness.
· Close proximity to a massive urban market, and a gateway hub for international visitors.
· The well-established, globally known Boeing Everett Factory and Boeing Tour. The Boeing Factory is the largest building in the world by volume.
· An enviable 'base camp' of high quality hotels, restaurants and transportation options.
However, there are some challenges to address. Key amongst these are:
- Sustainable tourism development is a relatively new focus. There will need to be some urgent pursuit of planning and destination management to avert congestion or overuse issues that could degrade some high quality outdoor recreation experiences. This is beginning to be addressed through approaches such as collaborative river management and trail development.
- Greater connectivity needs to be achieved between portions of the county, in order to help develop new tourism products and better connect the county into the larger regional destination options.
- The sharply seasonal nature of the existing industry places significant pressure on resources and can degrade visitor and resident experiences and perceptions of the tourism industry.
Recommended Future Action Areas
The integration of Destination Marketing and Sustainable Destination Development strategies is an exciting evolution in the regional Tourism Plan.
The 2018-2022 Strategic Tourism Plan is oriented around the following major areas of work and responsibility:
1. Destination Marketing, Promotion and Visitor Services:
- Building tourism demand through efficient and effective marketing led by the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau (SCTB).
2. Sustainable Destination and Product Development
- Building a quality tourism experience (supply) through a focus on infrastructure, product and operations of the destination led by the Snohomish County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT).
3. Implementation Framework, Protocol and Funding
- Organizational coordination and leadership by providing guidance and cohesion for a number of stakeholder groups, and to break down silos that limit the industry's potential impact.