Sarasota lawyer John Patterson recently pointed us in the direction of a series of research reports on the life cycle of resorts and their surrounding communities in various places around the world. It was like reading Longboat Key’s past, present and still-to-be-determined future.
Take a look at the accompanying chart. It tracks what R.W. Butler, of the University of Western Ontario, described in 1980 in Canadian Geographer. He called it the “cycle of evolution.” It goes like this:
• Stage 1: Exploration: Small numbers of tourists are attracted to an area “by its unique or considerably different natural and cultural features.” There are few facilities for visitors and contact with local residents is likely to be high, an attraction to the visitors but not a significant distration to the permanent residents.
• Stage 2: Involvement: As the number of tourists increases, local residents and businesses begin to provide facilities for tourists. Butler wrote that “contact between visitors and locals can be expected to remain high and, in fact, increase for those locals involved in catering for visitors.” Butler also said this stage sees the start of organized advertising and marketing to attract more visitors.
• Stage 3: Development: Wrote Butler: “Local involvement and control of development will decline rapidly.
Some locally provided facilities will have disappeared, being superseded by larger, more elaborate and more up-to-date facilities provided by external organizations, particularly for visitor accommodation. Natural and cultural attractions will be developed and marketed …
“Changes in the physical appearance of the area will be noticeable, and it can be expected that not all of them will be welcomed or approved by all of the local population … The number of tourists at peak periods will probably equal or exceed the permanent local population.” (Sound familiar?)
• Stage 4: Consolidation: “The rate of increase in numbers of visitors will decline, although total numbers will still increase, and total visitor numbers exceed the number of permanent residents … The large numbers of visitors and the facilities provided for them can be expected to arouse some opposition and discontent among permanent residents … to result in some deprivation and restrictions upon their activities.”
• Stage 5: Stagnation: “The area will have a well-established image, but it will no longer be in fashion.”
As the stagnation phase progresses, the resorts and resort area reach decision time: What will the future be — rejuvenation? Decline? Or a variation in between?
• Stage 6: Rejuvenation? Decline?: Butler wrote that the “declining” stage would mean the area is unable to compete with newer attractions and will be used increasingly for weekend trips. “Property turnover will be high, and tourist facilities often are replaced by non-tourist-related structures … Ultimately, the area may become a veritable tourist slum or lose its tourist function completely.”
Or, rejuvenation may occur — although, Butler wrote, “it is almost certain that this stage will never be reached without a complete change in the attractions on which tourism is based.”
On Longboat Key, we are at the end of the stagnation stage. Whether we follow the trendlines above of A, B, C, D or E, Butler wrote 30 years ago, depends on the decisions of the public and private sectors.
“A” would entail “successful redevelopment.” “B” would entail “minor modification and adjustment to capacity levels and continued protection of resources.” “C” would entail “an initial readjustment downward” (i.e. declining values and esthetics) followed by “readjustment.” “D” would entail continued overuse of resources and non-replacement of aging plant. “E” would be a hurricane that wipes us out.
We always learned: Go for an “A.”
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