In a 2016 study conducted by Airbnb, research found that most guests prefer to stay outside of traditional tourist hotspots, much preferring to be immersed in a community and its people. And the sentiments don’t appear to have changed much since then.
Travel deals constantly flog “The Local Experience” as part of the visitor experience and have garnered much traction in a world that’s moving past the veneer of perfect Instagram photoshoots at landmarks and well-known attractions. But how exactly does neighbourhood tourism create a positive impact?
- Local Pride: Neighbourhoods enhance the destination experience by creating emotional connections to a place. Passionate residents become natural tourism ambassadors, promoting their favourite activities and areas, as well as local businesses and eateries. Word of mouth is known to be an extremely effective marketing tool – who doesn’t want a local’s recommendation for the best meal in the area?
- Redefining value in tourism: Big tourist attractions are often seen as the driver of economic value. However, there’s much to be gained for small businesses, especially if the focus is centred on the quality of the stay. For example, if you enjoy your stay at a neighbourhood in an area known for its friendly locals, authentic cuisine or range of activities, you’re more likely to return time and time again, or even extend your time there, ultimately benefitting the community.
- New business opportunities: The rise of the Creative Traveller has made space for authentic, niche experiences. Providing visitors with the opportunity to develop their creative potential through workshops adds another layer of economic value to the visitor landscape. Improv theatre and comedy, cooking and art classes, bonsai and macramé (to name a few) all have enormous opportunity to align local business, the start-up economy and the destination brand to drive profitable businesses and plug a gap in a market thirsty for unique experiences.
- Creating change: Neighbourhood tourism has also been identified as the main strategy proposed by the UNWTO to combat the ever-growing problem of over-tourism. In a recent report, promoting the “dispersal of visitors within the city and beyond” was deemed the best way to promote attractions and facilities in less visited parts of a city, create a joint identity of a city and its surroundings, as well as improving the capacity of and time spent at attractions. The mark-up of an entire city as inner-city is set to stimulate visitation to less popular parts, resulting in a better overall visitor experience for all.
Collaboration with nearby neighbourhoods as a precinct, rather than as competitive local areas, is the next step in building a more effective, long-term tourism strategy. So, the next time you pick up trinkets from a street vendor in Roma (Mexico City), indulge in neo-Nordic cuisine in Nørrebro (Copenhagen), or stay in an indigenous longhouse in Sarawak (Malaysia), ask yourself how these former local-centric neighbourhood areas became sought-after tourist destinations.
Overtourism: Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions - UNWTO
Airbnb’s Top 16 neighbourhoods to visit in 2016 - CNN
Neighbourhoods and Tourism - Suzanne Cavanagh
By Manveen Maan