States Push Recreational Based Tourism
(SGB Weekly, Issue 1326, July 1, 2013, Page 6 & 7)
In order to boost the state's tourist economy and continue to support business partners such as bicycle and specialty outdoor retailers, rafting outfitters, lodging, local businesses and food and beverage purveyors, the Idaho Department of Commerce, Tourism Division is upping its outdoor-recreation spending in a push for the 2013-2014 seasons.
A five-year high consumer confidence level and an increase in real spending on travel and tourism are also fueling the push. Real spending on travel and tourism accelerated in the first quarter of 2013, increasing at an annual rate of 6.8 percent after increasing 2.1 percent (revised) in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Americans spend $646 billion annually on outdoor recreation. In Idaho alone, outdoor rec spending by consumers generates $6.3 billion, with an additional $1.8 billion in wages and salaries, 77,000 direct jobs and $461 million in local and state tax revenue. By comparison, neighboring Oregon generates twice those numbers, so it makes sense for the state to tap into and grow that potential.
And while the City of Boise, (the third largest population base in the Northwest), considers itself in large part a “drive to” destination, there’s an increased focus on the town’s convenient airport. Sometimes called a “freakishly friendly” city, it’s no wonder the recreation Mecca is hopeful to expand its tourism base. For example, they’ve worked with a local trail conservation group Ridge to Rivers to develop more than 150 miles of mountain biking trails in the foothills in recent years, working hand in hand with local landowners, BLM, city and military in a rare show of multi-jurisdictional cooperation.
The state even brought in outdoor industry public relations firm, The Walton Works, to help spread the word to outdoor recreation focused national media. “Any time we’re able to host a familiarization trip with journalists representing national publications, it’s an incredible opportunity. The main goal for the Tourism Division was to show that Idaho can be an appealing recreational destination for families as well as hard core adventurers,” said Idaho Tourism Marketing Specialist Mitch Knothe.
Additionally, in the last two years they've been to both Portland and Seattle bike shows to promote Idaho bicycle tourism directly to consumers. They are competing with other drive/fly markets like Denver and Portland for bicycle and recreation-based tourism dollars, all of which is helping fuel retail and online sales nationwide, promoting a healthier national lifestyle, and driving dollars to develop valuable urban resources such as public bike parking, rec paths, bike lanes and urban river corridor improvements.
Much like whitewater parks began to do 10 years ago, (Boise has one of those, too), urban river-way development is a relatively inexpensive way for cities and towns to improve their existing river corridors for boaters, floaters and fishermen, as well as other nonconsumptive users who use the rivers to cool off during hot summer months.
Even the state of Iowa is on board and recently hired RiverRestoration to build a whitewater park on the Turkey River in Elkader, IA. “We have recognized an abundant demand for new recreational opportunities in Elkader,” said Roger Thomas of Elkader’s Economic Development Corporation. “This project will satisfy that demand in a way that beautifies the city and strengthens its economy.” Similar river projects in Reno, NV, Ogden, UT, and Glenwood Springs, CO, have been successful in catalyzing sustainable economic growth thanks to the recreational opportunities and tourism dollars they attract.
Idaho Tourism even adopted “Adventures in Living” as its brand, stepped up its visual messaging, and now has more resources into outdoor activities and supporting outfitters, specialty retailers and non-profits. And like other states such as Colorado’s rafting industry, there’s a push toward non-extreme users such as families - broadening the recreational economic pie.
Said Knothe, “About 10 to 15 percent of our advertising is focused on pure recreation publications and sites. However, almost 100 percent of the advertising budget has a creative message/hero photography that supports our recreation message."
“Recreation is a key component in people’s decisions about where they want to vacation so we focus our advertising and promotional efforts on showcasing the recreational opportunities available in Idaho,” said Karen Ballard, chief tourism officer, Idaho Department of Commerce.