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
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