A top tourism and recreation specialist is calling on Idaho's growing industry to forge a plan for future development that will capitalize on what he called "a prime product that more and more Americans want."
"Idaho is right on the threshold of some really exciting times," John Hunt, head of the University of Idaho's Department of Resources Recreation and Tourism, told the Governor's Conference on Recreation and Tourism."We can either screw it up or make it good," he said, adding that the key to success is cooperation among government, communities and the industry in drafting a state tourism plan that will address the competitive atmosphere that exists for today's more sophisticated travelers.
And Gov. Cecil Andrus, addressing the conference Friday evening, joined Hunt in urging all segments of the industry to speak with a unified voice as they try to increase repeat vacationers and convince those coming during one season to return during the others.
"We all know that Idaho is a special place all year around," Andrus said. "Your influence and your effectiveness as an industry grows when you can speak as a united group, and that's another reason why the scope of this conference now includes outfitters, guides and other recreation professionals."
With emphasis on making Idaho a vacation destination rather than just another state to pass through, Hunt said it was up to the industry to maximize all its assets in striving to attract the visitor of tomorrow who will be looking for shorter one-stop vacations that include "back-to-nature" adventures.
Hunt cited the drawing power of national parks and predicted Idaho would have at least one national park by the end of the century.
"Our challenge will be in positioning Idaho as a place that can enhance family togetherness in a quality, leisure setting," Hunt said.
And Andrus urged industry leaders to remember why their business has been booming.
"We must maximize the protection of what brings people here to play - spectacular and unspoiled wild lands, sparkling water and clean air," the governor said. "We must maintain the character of our state to continue the expansion of the economy through this industry."
"The future for this industry," he said, "is limited only by our ability to continually improve and protect our product and market it successfully."