A resort town, often called a resort city or resort destination, is an urban area where tourism or vacationing is the primary component of the local culture and economy. A typical resort town has one or more actual resorts in the surrounding area. Sometimes the term resort town is used simply for a locale popular among tourists. One task force in British Columbia used the definition of an incorporated or unincorporated contiguous area where the ratio of transient rooms, measured in bed units, is greater than 60% of the permanent population.
Generally, tourism is the main export in a resort town economy, with most residents of the area working in the tourism or resort industry. Shops and luxury boutiques selling locally themed souvenirs, motels, and unique restaurants often proliferate the downtown areas of a resort town.
In the case of the United States, resort towns were created around the late 1800s and early 1900s with the development of early town-making. Many resort towns feature ambitious architecture, romanticizing their location, and dependence on cheap labor.
If the resorts or tourist attractions are seasonal in nature (such as a ski resort), resort towns typically experience an on-season where the town is bustling with tourists and workers, and an off-season where the town is populated only by a small amount of local year-round residents.
In addition, resort towns are often popular with wealthy retirees and people wishing to purchase vacation homes, which typically drives up property values and the cost of living in the region. Sometimes, resort towns can become boomtowns due to the quick development of retirement and vacation-based residences.
However, most of the employment available in resort towns are typically low paying and it can be difficult for workers to afford to live the area in which they are employed. Many resort towns have spawned nearby bedroom communities where the majority of the resort workforce lives.
Resorts towns sometimes struggle with problems regarding sustainable growth, due to the seasonal nature of the economy, the dependence on a single industry, and the difficulties in retaining a stable workforce.
Local residents are generally receptive of the economic impacts of tourism. Resort towns tend to enjoy lower unemployment rates, improved infrastructure, more advanced telecommunication and transportation capabilities, and higher standards of living and greater income in relation to those who live outside this area. Increased economic activity in resort towns can also have positive effects on the country's overall economic growth and development. In addition, business generated by resort towns have been credited with supporting the local economy through times of national market failure and depression.
In a study conducted by the Urban and Regional Planning Department of Istanbul Technical University, 401 local residents in the resort community of Antalya were interviewed and asked to give their opinion on the economic impacts of tourism. Among the participants, 67% had lived in Antalya for over ten years, 66% had at least a high school degree, and 30% reported jobs that were related to tourism. The results are as follows:
Perceived impact on select economic impact items (Antalya)
|Economic Item||% Total agree||Standard deviation|
|Increase in cost of land and housing||97||0.82|
|Increase in prices of goods and services||97||0.81|
|More job opportunities in Antalya||98||0.71|
|Better maintenance of Antalya||96||0.86|
|Higher standard of roads and public facilities||95||0.90|
|Increased income for local people||92||0.94|
|Better appearance of Antalya||86||1.17|
|More shopping opportunities||85||1.03|
|Increased standard of living||80||1.06|
|Economic gains for ordinary people||17||1.12|
More recently, resort towns have come under greater scrutiny by local communities. Instances where resort towns are poorly managed have adverse effects on the local economy. One example is the uneven distribution of income and land ownership between local residents and businesses. During tourist season, increased demand for accommodation may raise the price of land, causing a simultaneous increase in rent for local residents whose income in invariably lower than foreign residents. This results in a preponderance of foreigners in the land market and an erosion of economic opportunities for local residents.
The revenues amassed from tourism typically do not benefit the host country or the local communities. Income to local communities generated by tourism are all of the expenditures accrued after taxes, profits, and wages are paid out; however, around 80% of traveler's expenditures go to airlines, hotels, and international companies, not to local businesses. These funds are referred to as leakages. Tourism has also been blamed for other negative economic impacts to local communities. Although resort towns usually boast more improved infrastructure than surrounding areas, these developments usually present high costs to local governments and tax payers. Reallocating government funds to subsidize infrastructure and tax breaks to firms shift available funding to local education and health services. In addition, resort towns typically do not have dynamic economies, resulting in an over dependence on one industry. Economic dependence on tourism poses particular challenges to resort towns and its local residents given the seasonal nature of the job market in some areas. Local residents of resort towns face job insecurity, difficulties in obtaining training, medical-benefits, and housing.
Every resort town is unique and local governance should be viewed on a case-by-case basis. There are, however, several broad criteria for insuring the most effective governance models. They include: implementation of necessary and desirable services to local residents; recover costs through fees, taxes, and charges; use of parcel taxes to fund services like recreation and fire protection; grant assistance to benefit local residents, like tax exemption; and delegate tasks to elected officials, staff, and committees to streamline procedures and save time and money. In most democratic systems, a voter must reside primarily in one place, and vote only for local government representatives in that place; however, some exceptions do exist. For example, in Alberta, Canada, there is a special type of municipal government for holiday areas called a summer village which allows non-permanent residents to vote for the council even if they only live there part-time.