Europeans have known for a long time that the arts attract tourism. Americans are learning the same. While cultural activities are not created as economic tools, they do serve as economic energizers. Great cultural treasures -- museums, historical and archeological sites, theaters and concert halls -- are people magnets, drawing tourists and tourist dollars. These tourist dollars become important boosts to local economy as well as an underpinning to local economy as well as an underpinning to the arts institutions they support directly.
One sign of the increasing recognition of the lucrative financial partnership of the travel industry and arts institutions was a recent conference. "The Arts and Tourism: A Profitable Partnership" held in Toronto under joint sponsorships of the New York-based American Council on the Arts and the Ontario Ministries of Industry and Tourism and Culture and Recreation.
Over 300 experts from the travel field and the arts -- including such well-known figures as Arthur Frommer and Thomas Hoving -- investigated developing stronger economic links through coordination of planning and marketing to produce mutual financial gain.
The conferees noted that a city's quality of life as reflected by availability of diverse cultural attractions is an effective tool in promoting the favorable reputation required by a city hoping to attract tourists and/or new businesses, as well as conventions and other meeting which have positive economic side effects.
Arts facilities provide a focus to draw large numbers of people to defined neighborhoods. This "local tourism," or visitors from suburbs to inner city areas, enriches and expands the hours of street vitality and encourages development of new businesses.
An analysis of American travel patterns and tourist motivations made by the European Travel Commission in 1977 indicates that cultural attractions were major incentives for 60 percent of polled travelers to Europe. They wanted to visit museums, attend performning arts events, and become familiar with another country's culture.
Additional studies show more Americans attend symphony concerts than NFL football games, ballet performances than NBA basketball games, and total museum attendance is eight times greater than that for all pro sports events.
Evidence that the arts draw tourists is provided by the Netherlands National Tourist Office promotion of Holland's cultural assets. Teh issuance of a Dutch "culture card," a $2.50 ticket giving access to museums and galleries and guaranteeing availability of seats for arts events, increased the average stay of tourists in the Netherlands from 1.5 days to four days.
On the North American continent the King Tut exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art had significant positive economic impact on communities to which it toured. During the exshibit's two-month stay at the Art Gallery of Toronto more than 780,000 people (100,000 from outside Ontario) flocked to Toronto to see the show. They spent $26 million in Toronto and required 40,000 hotel rooms. Tourism through Tutmania had major positve impact on local economy.
Canada's Stratford Festival single-handedly reversed the fortunes of a small southwestern Ontario town. In 1952-53, when the festival was being planned. Stratford's industries had left the city. There was formidable unemployment and other signs of protracted economic depression. Few people visited Stratford; fewer still stayed in the town's three failing hotels.
The notion of the festival as economic boost met with resistance and strongly expressed doubts that the venture warranted investment of funds, time, or energy.
Today Stratford boasts 15 hotels and motels and over 50 prospering restaurants. a city of 27,000 people accommodates 150,000 visitors annually and the festival generates an estimated total revenue of $30 million a year.
Since the festival began, 40 industries have opened palnts in Stratford. Corporate leaders from Chris-Craft Industries, Westinghouse, and others have cited quality of life and the milieu set by the festival as primary factors in selection of STratford for plant location.
The festival is Stratford's biggest industry, reaping long-term benefits through the partnership of the arts and tourism.
Other communities throughout North America are taking action. Baltimore has, through completion of an extensive inner-city revitalization program using the arts as a major tool, significantly increased the city's quality of life and income from tourism.
Houston, one of the nation's fastest growing economic centers, has, in recognition of the importance of the arts to continued attraction of additional tourism and industry, levied a 1 percent tax on all hotel accommodations, specifically designated as a subsidy for the city's cultural institutions. The Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau of features cultural institutions and events, especially the houston Arts Festival, in its marketing strategies and advertising campaigns.
The North American travel industry is on the upswing through "reverse tourism ," or an increase in the numbers of posed to North Americans going overseas. Reverse tourism is partly due to favorable positions of foreign currencies vis-a-vis the dollar. This factor also encourages North Americans to spend vacation dollars in North America rather than travel overseas where their money is worth less.
Predictions that reverse tourism will continue to grow have made American and Canadian travel industries eager to package America rathern than pack off Americans. Considerations of the economic value of the arts have emerged as hindsight rather than strategy. Methods for using the arts require recognition and promotion of local inventories of arts institutions and events, analysis of potential arts developments, and creation of more effective exchange of information and coordination of marketing strategies.
It is necessary for arts institutions to inform government travel offices and the travel industry well in advance of exhibitions and events that will draw tourists, and to set aside a sufficient number of tickets for travelers.
There is great potential, the conferees concluded, in development of attractively packaged off-peak tours featuring tickets to cultural events, including transportation and accommodation, to attract tourist dollars.