Tourism can be defined as the practice in a country where ‘visitors’ of all kinds with different agendas – ranging from business to leisure – set out for adventure. The United States has a diverse experience within its territory in terms of tourism like iconic cultural and historic sites, waters, public lands among other. The federal government owns and manages some of the tourist attractions like National parks, wild life refuges, and marine sanctuaries. Most of the tourist attractions are located in rural areas and they play a part in retaining tourist for a longer visit (Platzer, 8).
There are different types of tourisms, they will be mentioned in brief below. Cultural heritage tourism is a form of tourism where people visit a place that authentically represent an event or an important figure or person from the past or present like an art gallery or a museum. Another type is ecotourism that encompass natural resources or cultural attributes, this type of tourism aims at environment conservation even when the tourism activity is taking place.
Medical tourism, on other hand, is when foreigners travel to specific countries to access medical services that are unavailable or expensive in their home countries. Lastly millions of people travel worldwide to attend meetings and convections; this is also a form of tourism. It accounts for 22% of overseas travel to the U.S and some come to explore investment opportunities other than attending meetings and convections. Nature, heritage and cultural tourism are in the lead and are expected to grow tremendously over the next decade (Platzer, 9). Tourism, therefore, takes various forms and purposes, based on the intentions and activities of the visitors to an area.
Impact of tourism
Tourism accounts for 2.8% of gross domestic product in the United States that accounts for about $ 415 billion dollars, it also employs more than 5 million people. The industry is labor intensive and is advantageous as it employs many workers with little training and education levels. The tourism sector has expanded globally in the last decade to become an important economic sector in terms of creating employment and as a fiscal value to the federal government. In 2012 alone an estimated 67 million tourists visited U.S making it the second most popular tourist destination after France (Bryson & Salazar, 3).
The sector employs women and young people than other sectors thus is advantageous as it provides independence to women and is important because it supports child development and plays a key role in poverty reduction. Jobs opportunities are in working in hotels, travel agency staff, guides, taxi and bus drivers, food and beverage suppliers as well as airport employees. For every 100 jobs created directly in the sector 69 more are created elsewhere in the economy (US travel association, 7)
Tourism is broad and not only influences the economic aspect but also has environmental and social implications. It can have environmental implications in terms of increased energy consumption, air pollution that will be discussed in detail later on. Social implications may be in terms of social residents who feel displaced by the influx of visitors especially during peak tourism seasons (Moen, 10).
History of tourism growth
The industry is becoming more competitive with large emerging markets like the Asian countries which may overtake the U.S in by 2025 to come if stringent measures are not taken to maintain the tourist market. Other countries are actively marketing themselves so as to play a part in the market share. Economic effects are determined with the amount of tourist spending. U.S travel association reports that international tourists tend to spend more than domestic visitors by as much as 15% thus U.S share of market may drop drastically as travelers visit other destinations in the next few years (Bryson & Salazar, 3)
The industry has grown steadily from the 1980’s to 1999. It has been somehow speculated too grow more with economic expansion, in terms of when income is high there is demand for luxury goods and activities while in an economic recession demand for luxury goods fall abruptly, so does travel and tourism output. A classic example is after the terrorism attack in September 11 2001, the tourism industry dealt with an unprecedented blow, the foreigners coming to U.S continued to decline even in 2002 and 2003, and it led to plummeting stock market rates and a sluggish economic recovery (US travel association, 5)
Tourism in specific parts of U.S.A
Trade and tourism has been reported to be more important in Rocky mountain districts like Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming than plain regions like Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. This is evidenced by the number of the dwellers being employed by the travel and tourism industry. The GDP has grown by 20% in Colorado and Missouri and 80 % in Wyoming in the past few years.
The main attraction sites are national parks like the Yellowstone National Park, ski resorts like Colorado ski areas and Santa Fe. Some rural areas have transformed into a form of heritage tourism in order to improve the economic activity in the area. Some farmers are charging visitors to participate in or observe traditional agricultural activities (Wilkerson, 54)
Factors contributing to tourist expansion
Several factors have led to an expansion in the tourism industry. The working hours are more flexible and this has allowed people to travel and take vacations more often, the vacation periods have also been increased. Cost of travelling has reduced, technological advances like the internet has led made it easier to find favorable travel bargain for airlines for both local and international flights. Once the effects of terrorism have faded and security has been boosted, tourism is expected to flourish even more in future. Most of the tourist attractions are in the rural America as mentioned earlier, this is an added advantage as it will help stimulate the economy and create jobs in the areas (Wilkerson, 49)
Challenges in the tourism industry
Natural events or disasters unrelated to changes in the national economy have been reported to affect tourism tremendously. An example is Yellowstone fires of 1988 which burnt over 1.6 acres of the world’s oldest national park, the Hayman fire near Denver and Missionary Ridge fire that led to the destruction of properties worth 40 million dollars and lead to the displacement of thousands of people who lived in the area. Reduced snowfall can also be an issue as it can lead to a poor ski season in the rocky mountain district, drought on the other hand may affect the rafting industry and eventually lead to wild fires which destroy national; parks as earlier mentioned (Wilkerson, 53).
With the technological advancement in the 21st century use of teleconferencing in place of attending conventions and meetings may lead to reduced future business travel considering an increased amount of time used when travelling when it can be avoided. There is increased popularity and accessibility to new global destinations all over the world thus the tourist have a wide range to choose from, the United States on the other hand has no co-ordinated promotional campaign to promote U.S destinations to foreigners thus giving the competitors an upper hand. There are low cost airlines where one can bargain for favorable prices for both local and international flights encouraging travelers to stay at home. Terrorist activities affect tourism tremendously, the September 11 2001 attacks for example led to a decline in tourism activities around that period and extended to 2002 1nd 2003 (National Travel and Tourism Office,5).
Climate change has adversely affected the tourism industry. Climate is usually a determining factor when tourists are choosing a destination and it can have an effect on the duration of the tourist season. An example is the rising number of hurricanes in the Caribbean; the rising sea level in Fiji will lead to a loss of tourism infrastructure and will influence the industry as a whole. In particular the U.S south west has the best spectacular landscapes but experiences the worst in terms of climate variability. Droughts, heat waves, floods are among the climate related threats and it is expected to become worse in future due to the climate change (Morehouse ‘et al’, 274).
Although the tourism sector encourages informal employment in that some of its employees do not require formal training, the working conditions are often characterized by unsocial and irregular working conditions characterized by night shifts, weekend shifts and a lot of work during the holiday seasons. This creates stress on workers, especially women who have family responsibilities at home. The informal employment can create be a disadvantage as it facilitates negative components like child labor and gender inequality, there have been cases linked to prostitution activity and commercial sexual exploitation of children (International Labor Office, 13).
More than a third of tourists who visit U.S.A favor environment friendly tourism, thus the importance of ensuring the environment conservation is at its best. Tourism sector faces several environment related challenges. One of them is the growing consumption of energy, in the 21st century tourists tend to travel further and over short periods of time using energy intense transportation like aircraft and cars as compared to trains and buses which are better in terms of energy consumption. The increased travelling has been contributed by the favorable airline prices and the improved infrastructure, both by air and on land. The travel mode has also led to increased emissions and is expected to increase over the years. Accommodation is the most energy intensive due to requirements for heating, cooling, lighting and cooking in hotels and restaurants. There is poor waste management as hotels discharge untreated sewage into the sea which can affect the water quality.
In U.S.A tourism and recreational activities consume 946 million cubic meters of water per year on swimming pool, spas, wellness centre and guest rooms, this implies that there is no water efficiency, and to add to this the water that is available is further polluted by the waste products from the hotels and restaurants (Pratt, 425).
There are detrimental effects of biodiversity like coral reefs, rainforest, coastal wetlands and semi-arid and arid areas. Coral ecosystems have been affected by overfishing off reefs to feed the increasing number of tourists, sewage dumping is n the rise, there is sedimentation from runoffs from parking lots and golf courses built near the reefs. Beach resorts have been built near coast lands, water tables have been lowered specifically in arid and semi-arid areas due to increased water intensive activities. There is need to incorporate biodiversity concerns when planning and expanding the tourism industry as the effects mentioned will have major effects on the natural environment which is a major source of tourist attraction. The improvement of environment conservation is expected to reinforce employment potential (Pratt , 427).
Future prospects in the tourism industry
The government plays a big role in creating a positive environment for tourism to grow. They include; providing security by protecting resources and ensuring travelers and the general public is safe, ensuring there is good infrastructure, campaigning and promoting international and domestic travel and provision of quality customer care to the tourists. They will each be explained in brief.
The government has made use of technology to enhance and ensure information as reached visitors so they can be able to plan trips within the U.S. They have done this through a program named Brand U.S, a corporation for travel promotion. The corporation has created discoverAmerica.com, a website that provides information on the tourist attractions in the country. The information has also been provided in such a way that interpretation can be done to non-English speaking foreigners. The corporation plans to visit U.K, Japan and different European countries with the aim of promoting travel and tourism in the U.S.A the advanced technology has also created channels where tourist can make reservations online as more than 400,000 hotels, 900,000 restaurants in thousands of destinations have been listed in specific sites, thus the customer has access to information about the destination that suite his or her preference (Bryson & Salazar, 8).
Travel within the U.S has been enhanced, federal agents have removed barriers to U.S travel by allowing open-skies air transport agreements that liberalize air service between foreign countries and the U.S. visa processing to legitimate travelers are being processed faster, there is an improvement on how visa applicants are interviewed to processing of travelers at the ports of entry, it is done in such a way that enhances travel and does not compromise the national security. The process of arrival and processing has been shortened remarkably to about a maximum of 22 minutes per individual and aviation security screening is thorough at the border to ensure safety for the travelling public (Bryson & Salazar, 9).
Custom Border Protection was created in 2003 and deals with processing arriving travelers and maintaining high levels of security. It is being challenged by the fact that it relies on fluctuating passenger volume for most of the funding for the officers, thus lacks adequate staffing especially during busy summer and travel times. An alternative source of funding is being sought to deal with the understaffing (Bryson & Salazar, 11).
Tourism policy council has been established by congress to co-ordinate federal policies and programs that relate to tourism and travel. The policies and programs aim in promoting tourist destinations while providing quality experience to the tourists. The government is planning to invest in infrastructure projects that will improve roads, bridges, tunnels and ferries so as to ease movement within the country (Bryson & Salazar, 10).
Provision of world class customer service is of importance as it ensures high quality experience for travelers that will lead to repeat visitation and will lead to advertising through word of mouth. It can be a bit challenging in terms of language barrier, age due to the wide variety of visitors from across the globe.
A skilled hospitality workforce is key to a successful travel and tourism industry. Whether managed federal or private sector, provision of quality customer care service depends on the staff that first interact or engage with the tourists from arrival to departure. Workforce investment act has been created and deals with job training and workforce development efforts (Mansour & Mahin, 15).
There are online interactive venues where there is federal information and resources that assist workforce, professionals and employers, the platform creates a venue for sharing of knowledge about the skills needed in the industry to support healthy travel and tourism economy and how to provide high quality visitor experience (Bryson & Salazar, 12).
The government is planning to work on the tourism industry and researchers to conduct high quality research on tourism issues. Good data and information on Visitors origin, their length of stay, cities visited, spending patterns among other factors will help in marketing strategies, investment plans, infrastructure planning of U.S as a visitor destination (Bryson & Salazar, 15).
The government has recognized that reliance on natural resources as a source of tourism attractions cannot guarantee consumer demand for tourism, thus it has developed policies, incentives and strategies for attracting investments in the tourism industry like building new hotels and the general holistic development of the sector. The incentives should be in line with environmental protection, this can be achieved by giving subsidies on purchase of equipment or technologies that reduce waste production encourage energy conservation and water efficiency. The government can have appropriate taxation subsidies that are aimed at encouraging investments in sustainable and profitable tourism activities.
There is focus in provision of high quality products and services that are differentiated from what the market is offering. Tourists would prefer to purchase a higher quality product that is more expensive but provides greater satisfaction. They are less concerned with the price of the product or service but with the value of money.
Tourism is a source of foreign exchange and foreign direct investment in many countries among them U.S.A.it contributes to the economic development in creating jobs especial to special groups in the society namely women and also consolidates higher investment returns and generally contributes in poverty reduction. Tourism contributes tremendously to the Gross domestic product thus plays a major role in economic development.
In order for tourism to expand, rather than compete with the large upcoming markets from the Asian origin, there is need to formulate and supply a good investment climate through ensuring security and stability, the government can offer tax subsidies and incentives to encourage investment, improvement of infrastructure to ease movement in the country and generally equipping the staff with skills to offer high quality customer care service to tourist.
Conservation of the environment is also mandatory by improving energy consumption, water conservation and practicing proper waste management. This topic assumes enhanced significance given the threats of an unhealthy physical environment and growing environmental threats in modern times. Tourism thrives on the existence of sustainable, healthy environments and habitats, and conservation plays a vital role in ensuring these benefits