Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dr. Phil of Tourism or: How I Stopped Resisting Mass Culture and Started Loving Lucy

Over the past 8 years, I’ve sat through numerous meetings, attended several seminars, read local viewpoints in papers and online; and listened to opinions about what our community, and county, needs to do to attract visitors to this area.

In September, I had the good fortune of being able to attend a seminar by Roger Brooks where he presented his Tourism Assessment for Chautauqua County. Brooks is a consultant that was hired by the Chautauqua County Visitor’s Bureau, as an outsider, to come to our county, cities, towns, and villages and see what we were doing right and wrong from a visitor’s standpoint. He and his company have a proven track record for helping areas put into place successful marketing plans to get more visitors. Brooks also reminded me of Dr. Phil with the way he presented the results of his assessment. Some of it was hard news, but you felt like everything could be okay if you just took his advice.

When it came to Jamestown, Brooks had some observations that were unsurprising. He stated that he found the parking rules confusing and that one could shoot a cannon down Third Street after 5pm and not hit a soul. What was surprising was that he wasn’t initially sure if Lucille Ball was from Jamestown.

I thought, “How could you not know? You can’t turn around without being smacked in the face with something Lucy-related around here!”

Well, because of the lack of “way-finding” signs and the lovely, one-way streetscape of our downtown area, it wasn’t until Brooks got out of his car and walked up and down every street that he finally found the Lucy-Desi Museum.

Brooks’ main observation about Jamestown is that we already have an attraction: Lucille Ball. The fact that she’s from here is unique to this city. She is one of the most recognized figures of the 20th century and is beloved by millions. The “I Love Lucy” show still plays in syndication on television stations all around the world. Two museums, a gift shop, a theatre, and four murals already bear her name and/or likeness in the downtown business district. The museum already holds two events during the warmer months in her honor. People have come to Jamestown from all over the world because of the lady known as the “Queen of Comedy.”

That being said, I know there are some wary residents and business owners when it comes to making Jamestown “Lucytown.” It is easy to understand how those who have lived here for a number of years and have had Lucy shoved down their throats during this time can be burned out on this beloved red-head. I’ve heard it from a lot of people. I’ve also heard a lot of good ideas for other non-Lucy projects, events, and development.

The key thing to know in all of this is that Roger Brooks said we should make Lucy our main attraction. You draw in all the baby boomers with money for that, and then entice them with our other diversions, whether it be the Fenton History Museum, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Forte, Roberto’s, Labyrinth Press Company, the new River Walk, the Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena, or Johnny’s Lunch.

Lest we forget, it’s about money. We want lots of outside visitors coming to our city, staying here extended periods of time, buying goods, eating meals, spending money, and having such a good time that they will go home and tell all their friends and family how great Jamestown is and that they should go there too. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth when it comes to positive and negative press.

Let’s get back to what some see as a hard pill to swallow when it comes to the idea of “Lucytown.” Supporting the concept of Lucille Ball as a main attractor to get visitors to Jamestown is a no-brainer. It’s an established marketing “brand” in this area and we just need to capitalize on it for all it’s worth. And that can be done in a tasteful way.

Various people have begun meeting about how to make what Roger Brooks talked about in his assessment into action. If anything is going to happen successfully in this city, it has to come from the ground up. It has to be business owners willing to take the risk that we will have visitors after 6pm, and staying open until 8pm a few days of the week and being open on the weekends. It has to be all the attractions working together to promote one another and everything we have to offer visitors in Jamestown. It’s providing superior customer service. It’s as basic as having a sign on your door saying when your business is open. It’s letting visitors use your bathroom without expecting them to spend money in your establishment.

How everything will shake out remains to be seen. Government can’t make it happen. Too many politics involved there. They can provide money or find money, but it’s up to the community to take this and run with it. If we make Lucy our main focus, there’s still room for all the other cool things I’ve been hearing about. We still need excellent diversions.

You need to get involved. If you hear about public meetings to discuss this, or other development projects around the city, you need to be there. You have to be willing to hear other people’s ideas and then voice your thoughts as well. Anything in business is a risk. This city needs you to be on board.

Here are the links for Roger Brook’s Tourism Assessment:
Introduction & First Impressions
Assessments - Part I
Assessments - Part II
The Art of Branding


Kevin_H said...

All the medium and large cities I've lived and worked in have had one way streets downtown. Its not a new concept so I don't see his point about J-town having one way streets. Especially since J-town is so small it shouldn't be too confusing. Heck, if the Amish can ramble through downtown on their buggies then any out-of-towner can manage in their gas guzzling SUVs.

If your really gonna promote Lucy/Desi then you really do need directional signs on the streets. I can't think of any city that doesn't have them. Even if it is a small city, people new to the city aren't going to know their way around and making it simple for them - even the proverbial handholding - makes the experience that much better.

I'd suggest looking at Golden, CO and what they do to promote the fact they have Buffalo Bill's grave up on Lookout Mountain, above the city, and their Wild West Days they have every year.
Yeah, people come to Golden for other things throughout the year and their economic situation is different then Ball-town...err...J-town, but you may learn something from them.

Cross promoting is key, cause Lucy is a limited niche market. Having Ball-fest in the summer during fishing season would draw more people in because of nearbye Chat Lake. Coordinating evnts at the other museums and such would help keep people there longer.

Chat county has a long history of agricultre and hunting/fishing. Promoting that would help too.
I don't think Lucy is a big enough draw to sustain everything. A stepping stone, but she's not as popular as she was in her day and her fan base (mainly baby boomers) aren't going to sustain the Fest.

Sabrina said...

I'm surprised nobody has come up with the marketing tagline "Have a Ball in Jamestown!"

You can moderate this. I know. The pun is horrific. But you weren't on IM and I couldn't send it there. This is your PUNishment.

Mr. Social said...

I heard about this Roger Brooks seminar, and as I understand it, he had a lot of good things to say. I think you make a good point about the Lucy draw. You can hunt and fish in a lot of places. That's a bunch of crap. There are lakes all over the place so that's a buncha crap too. You need to look at a destination as an outsider and ask yourself, "Why would I go there? What do they have there that I cannot get anywhere else?"

There are other reasons to come to Jamestown, sure, but those are features. You need, in the grand scheme of things to concentrate your promotional effort in one uniform direction. Like it or not, that thing in Jamestown is Lucille Ball. Almost everything else exists elsewhere. examples:

Robert H. Jackson Center: other towns have famous supreme court judges (not from the Nuremburg trials but...)

The New Ice Arena: other places have

Roger Tory Peterson Institute: he is a famous artist and naturalist, but other places have nature centers...

What other place is Lucy from? See where this is going? Once you have people and their money in town, there's no limit to the business that these and money these other attractions can acquire. And not everyone has to be on board, because of course they will not be. Every other town in the world has Haters too.

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