As the economy continues to falter...
As the economy continues to falter and factories across the Midwest close their doors, many small towns have been left scrambling to find new revenue streams. This search usually leads to tourism, which has suddenly become an economic holy grail for many struggling towns. And on the surface, increasing tourism sounds like a nice quick-fix solution for a struggling area. Take a few historic buildings and some nice scenery, add a fancy visitor's brochure and viola! Instant tourism growth!
Madison, Indiana is currently searching for the magic formula that will help advance it's reputation as a tourist destination. Consultants have been brought in. Data has been analyzed. Suggestions have been made. It turns out, building a tourist destination is not an exact science. According to Tuesday's Madison Courier (Consultant: City Needs Preservation Expert), even the experts can't agree on the best way to get it done.
The solutions proposed by the consultants include beautifying downtown Madison with strategically placed benches and trees, building a brand for the town, and preserving historical buildings. All these proposals seem to assume that creating a successful tourist destination is just a matter of tweaking a few variables. Obviously, there is more to it than that.
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One of the biggest flaws I see with the current proposals is that they are all inward-focused. They do not take into consideration the most important question of all: "what do tourists want?" Increasingly, tourists are choosing their destinations based on what they can do, not what they can see. Obsessing about the placement of benches and the color of buildings is missing the point.
I can honestly say I have never traveled to a town or city with the sole purpose of surveying the local architecture. However, I have traveled to Ohio to go white-water rafting. I have traveled to North Carolina to hike. I have traveled to Tennessee to fish, and I have traveled to Gettysburg to look for ghosts. For people in my generation (I am 29), it's not about sightseeing, it's about sight-doing.
Events like the Regatta, Ribberfest and the Folk Music Festival have done a great job of bringing people to Madison three weeks out of the year. A tourism plan that looks beyond buildings and brands could go a long way in bringing people to town the other forty-nine weeks.
Posted in Business Service Post Date 10/15/2015