Tourism is a voluntary activity, which means that tourists have a choice among competing destinations. Given a choice, where will they go?
Virtually every study of travel has shown that along with rest and recreation, visiting scenic areas and historic sites are among the top reasons why people travel. Sustainable tourism is a long-term strategy, not a quick fix. It involves making and insuring a destination is appealing. This means conserving and enhancing the destination’s natural tourism assets. In other words, protecting the environment.
It is after all the unique heritage, cultural, wild life, or natural beauty of a community or region that attracts tourists in the first place. If the character of a destination is at odds with its description in advertising and promotional literature, the tourists will feel cheated. Creation of a false image can spoil a vacation for visitors and will reduce repeat visitations.
The character of the community should shape its development for the future. Many examples exist of preservation of cities other than ours, including Annapolis , MD ; Savannah , GA ; Charleston , SC and Santa Fe , NM . They have become some of North America ’s leading tourism destinations because they have protected their unique architectural heritage. By contrast, cities that have obliterated their past reduce their ability to attract any tourists in the present and in the future.
Keys to sustainable tourism in Moore County:
Sustainable tourism means preserving and protecting resources. The more a community comes to resemble Anyplace U.S.A., the less reason then to visit. It’s in Moore County’s best interest to insure its destination is more appealing so people will stay longer, receive value for the money they spend during their visit, and leave feeling they have experienced a unique area that has preserved its unique character.
- Focus on authenticity. Make every effort to preserve the authentic aspects of local heritage and culture including handicrafts, art, music, language, architectural landscape, traditions, and history. Sustainable tourism emphasizes the real over the artificial. Many examples exist throughout Moore County - from the New England style architecture that the Village of Pinehurst is well known for, to locally crafted pottery in Northern Moore County.
Recognize that tourism has limits. Our community realizes that even with the many economical advantages associated with tourism, there are limits to what the local infrastructure can support. Tourism development that exceeds the caring capacity of the ecosystem or fails to respect the community’s sense of place, will result in resentment and the eventual destruction of the very attributes that tourists come to enjoy. New tourism products are important to the long-term healthy growth of most destinations; however, it shouldn’t be at the expense of existing tourism products and services.
In 2010, we estimate Moore County had more than 1,150,000 visitors for the year, or an average of 3,150 visitors per day. This included visitors staying at hotels as well as those visiting for the day and visiting friends and relatives. We anticipate an average annual increase of 2% to 4% which is characterized as a healthy growth rate not exceeding the community’s capacity.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau Tourism Barometer tracks key tourism measurements and establishes suggested limits on growth. Data tracked includes (a) tourism revenues, taxes and jobs, (b) visitation estimates, (c) golf course inventories, (d) hotel room inventories, (e) key travel volume statistics, and (f) marketshare. The Convention & Visitors Bureau is committed to planning for growth and working with the community leaders to monitor realistic capacities and insure they are not exceeded.
Ultimately, however, municipalities must establish the limits and path of growth through planning. Examples of County land planning efforts in the 1990s include; (1) Moore For Tomorrow Study Plan and (2) Corridor Study which developed recommendations for county and municipality officials to use when evaluating land planning and zoning issues. In 1998, Moore County committed to a county-wide land use plan that will provide the county with an efficient and effective way to grow into the new millennium. In 2007 Moore County approved the Area A Development Plan, which includes several proposed high profile, unique golf and resort developments.
- Work to insure that tourists supported facilities, hotels, restaurants, and shops are architecturally and environmentally compatible with their surroundings. People crave integrity of place wherever they go, and homogeneous, off-the-shelf, corporate chain and franchise architecture often times work against integrity of place. Development should strive to have a harmonious relationship within the setting. Moore County is blessed with many unique architectural influences reflected in the many small towns and villages. Tourism supported facilities should reflect the broader environmental context of the community and should respect the specific size, character and functional factors of their sight within their surrounding landscape.
- Interpret the resources. Education and interpretation are another key to sustainable tourism. Visitors want information about what they are seeing. Interpretation can also be a powerful story-telling tool, which can make an attraction, even an entire community, come alive. It also can result in better-managed resources by explaining why the resources are an important interpretation, and still respect and foster stewardship in both visitors and residents. The Convention & Visitors Bureau is dedicated to fostering these efforts.
- Consider aesthetics and ecology. Clean air, clean water and healthy natural systems are fundamental and important to sustainable tourism. Many cities have gotten used to ugliness, accepting this inevitable to progress. However, other more enlightened communities recognize that the way a community looks affects its image and its economic well-being. Protecting scenic views and vistas, planting trees, landscaping parking lots and controlling signs are all fundamentally important to the economic health of our community. The tourism industry in Moore County was galvanized in dealing with a recent environmental issue involving intensive livestock operations, which provided a valuable lesson for the area.
Enhance the journey as well as the destination. Tourism is the sum total of a travel experience. It’s not just what happens at the destination but involves everything that people see and do from the time they leave home until the vacation is over. Getting there can be half of the fun, but frequently is not. It’s in the best interest of our tourism industry to encourage the development of historic heritage corridors, biking paths, hiking trails and other forms of alternative transportation. The tourism industry in Moore County will continue to encourage the designation of scenic byways and protection of roads with unique or scenic character.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau will take a leadership role to insure civil and business leaders, as well as developers, promote community discussion and comprehensive planning policies that emphasize a sustainable tourism agenda. These initiatives will strengthen the local economy by protecting and enhancing the community’s natural, cultural and scenic resources.
Edward McMahen, Tourism and the Environment, Planning Commissioners Journal, November 28, 1997.
David J. Brown, An Introduction to Sustainable Development, Land Use Law, April, 1997.