Summertime is all about the outdoors, right? Being in tourism we get to see firsthand the thousands of people who are coming from all around the country and the world to visit just to see our beautiful scenery and participate in our exquisite outdoor playground. They are camping, they are in hotels, B&B’s and rental cabins. They come here to hike, see waterfalls and explore the wilderness. At the same time our nine summer camps are crowded with kids doing outdoor sports, hiking, horse riding and having outdoor cookouts and parents who come and spend the weekend with us when delivering kids and again when picking them up. The summer camps in DeKalb County are critical to our summer tourism business.
This year we are enjoying a very lush green summer with temperatures that have been mostly under 90 for most of the season, thus far. Our appeal has always been the outdoors and we are focusing more and more on the outdoorsy; Generation X and Millenial's who are really into adventure sports, hiking, biking, rappelling, kayaking, rock climbing, and yes they like a good meal with a cold beer after a day in nature. This is where our communities come in. Generation X and Millenial's like entertainment and good food and drinks. They prioritize spending their travel dollars on experiences that include good food, music and a cool looking environment to do it in. Vintage 1889 restaurant, bar and entertainment venue in Fort Payne is in a historic building with interior brick walls, it exemplifies the experience these two generations are looking for.
Our area over the last 30 years has greatly attracted the Baby Boomer generation. They had the income and the desire to travel. They loved Bed and Breakfast lodges, camping and renting cabins to relax and hang their feet of the porch railing. The Baby Boomers were affluent, well employed and equipped with full time jobs and great vacation time and they were eager to travel and see our country and the world. In my first several years in tourism, 2008 through 2012 the “Boomers” still spent the most money traveling and they were our bread and butter for tourism to DeKalb. That has and is gradually changing as many Baby Boomers lost retirement money in collapsing companies or during the great recession. Income loss along with aging the oldest Boomers (1946-1964) now in their early 70’s are traveling less and spending less money, as a whole. In the meantime the Generation X and Millennial have surpassed the Boomers in income wealth, and travel expenditures. The Millennial’s are especially interested in experiences over material items and they tend to travel more, eat at better restaurants and spend more on vacations and less on houses, furniture and other household items. It is our job in tourism to change how we market our area to fit the generation that is willing to come spend time with us. This is why at all of our annual tourism training seminars and symposiums there is always a guest speaker that is an expert on generational marketing. It is critical to our long term growth to offer a tourism portfolio that fits the visitor demographic that is interested in coming to our area.
Thus far we are having a very successful summer tourism season. Our lodging numbers are up and so are the headcounts at our major local events and at our area parks. We feel we have a great future for tourism in our area. It will be important that we along with our community leaders and business entrepreneurs adjust their offerings to visitors to meet the changing demographics of the ever changing generations.