Assessing a community’s tourism fitness
The First Impressions Tourism (FIT) program was designed to help Michigan’s rural communities that are interested in community revitalization via tourism and recreation.
Michigan tourism generated $38 billion in economic activity and nearly $2.4 billion in tax revenue in 2014. As such, tourism is one of the state’s significant industries and is vital to the survival and revitalization of many rural and urban communities. Michigan State University Extension developed the First Impressions Tourism (FIT) program to meet the needs of Michigan’s rural communities that are interested in community revitalization via tourism and recreation.
FIT helps communities learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of first-time, unannounced visitors who conduct a comprehensive community assessment. FIT involves assessing the host community, sharing the results in an open community forum and providing recommendations to drive community action. Each community is required to form a community leadership team consisting of public and private stakeholders. In 2016, nearly 140 participants attended presentations or in some way participated in the first two pilot Michigan-based FIT programs:
- 100% agreed or strongly agreed that the program can help Michigan communities who are interested in developing tourism.
- 94% agreed or strongly agreed that they envisioned themselves or their community using the information shared to advance tourism.
- 88% agreed or strongly agreed that awareness of community assets increased as a result of participating in the program.