In the world of destination marketing, visitors are considered the target. Hotel stays are typically a major focus, and considering the primary funding source for most destination marketing ventures, it makes sense. The marketing is usually fueled by hotel tax generated by overnight visitors with the purpose of reinvesting the money in more marketing to sustain this vital stream of revenue at both the local and state levels. While this is a good and proven system, I want to suggest that the hotel part of the destination equation is just a piece of an overall successful destination marketing initiative.

Let me pose a question: how many of you have ever stayed in a hotel and did not spend other money beyond the cost of your room? Guests eat, shop, entertain themselves, rent vehicles, purchase services like catering and decorating, even buy gas before leaving town. Visitors’ extraneous spending is more often than not the lion’s share of the money they will leave in a destination. Destination marketing is the pursuit of all of these expenditures combined, impacting hotel and sales tax that affect local business revenue and citizens’ quality of life. This is the crux of economic development. When the city is thriving, people want to be here. They want to visit, live, work, and invest.

So what role do we, the average citizens, play in this big picture? The most important thing we can do is to decide to keep our dollars circulating in Denton. This is a power uniquely in our own hands, and we control it by shopping local.

“Shop local” may sound cliché. It is a phrase ascribed to marketing campaigns and education initiatives designed to encourage spending in our own locale. But are we listening? What must happen is a paradigm shift of great proportions. We must do more than choose to shop local; we must determine to think local.

Christmas time is an excellent season to try out this concept. Money will change hands more freely in the next few weeks than the entire rest of the year. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that is why advertisers bring Christmas to the forefront before we’ve carved our Halloween pumpkins.

So, let’s say we all agree to think about where we will invest our money. Local mom and pop stores are everywhere in Denton, especially in our downtown region. Try them out. If big box stores are your thing, at least decide to think Denton’s department stores. We have plenty of those, too. How about our own Golden Triangle Mall if mall shopping is your preference? Our mall is sporting new looks, new stores, and new dining options.

Photo by Ed Steele Photography

And beyond Christmas, need a new car? Think local. Need new tires on the old car? Think local. These are examples of big-ticket expenditures. Choose to make these purchases here, at home, where your tax dollars go right back to work for your own quality of life.

The definition of a visitor is a person spending time in a destination in which they do not live. Have you ever thought about the fact that every single time you buy a burger somewhere besides Denton, you are investing visitor dollars into that place’s economy? How much more is that impact when we are checking off items from our Christmas lists?

We are every one a participant in the health of our economy. Our spending in Denton creates the sales tax revenues that enable our local government to better our quality of life. Sales tax funds parks, roads, services, beautification, contributes to education, facilities, and activities that enhance the culture and life of our city. The more we have in our coffers, the more our citizens realize the impact in ways we typically take for granted – until they are curbed or removed for lack of appropriate budget. Whether we opt to spend at home or elsewhere, we still make an impact. One is positive and the other is positive for another place and citizens not our own.

If we think local, our money will follow. Keep it in Denton.