Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Civic Tourism

This quote from Dan Shilling, keynote speaker for the Civic Tourism conference I plan to attend in Colorado in August, gave me quite a bit to think about lately.
"...tourism, as the largest industry in many states and communities, has an obligation to partner with political, cultural, environmental, and economic sectors to help craft a healthy quality of life – for residents as well as visitors. That means more than 'heads in beds' or lavish websites; it means acting as a responsible corporate citizen, socially and politically. It means leadership."
As I wrestle with the mission of what the CVB is for McPherson, I like to think my job is about more than putting heads in beds and helping build up the hotel business in McPherson. After all, visitors come to McPherson to conduct business, play sports, visit relatives, enjoy leisure activities and not to specifically stay in a certain hotel. Hotels are the byproduct of a vibrant community and not the other way around.
I had the good fortune to run into Bob Workman at two meetings I attended this week. Bob is the director of the Discovery Flint Hills Center in Manhattan that will open in 2012. Bob has a unique vision for the center to be primarily a place to tell the story of the Flint Hills and to be a non-collecting museum. He plans to have staff that is more geared to marketing and no curator. The center is being built with Star Bonds money and once built, will receive 1 percent of the 6.25 percent guest tax in Manhattan. The center will be a true draw for visitors and be adjacent to a hotel, convention center and public park that are also part of the project.
The more I talked with Bob, the more I liked his project. It is being backed by the city, works closely with the local university as a place for faculty to share their research, has a public area that benefits the citizens of Manhattan. It is a place to bring in traveling displays, artists, and host events in the community. It brings more traffic to the downtown shopping area and creates new jobs. I like it because it does as much for the residents as it does for visitors.
I also recently visited Dodge City and the Boot Hill center for the first time. Dodge has had a sales tax in place for a number of years called the "Why Not Dodge?" tax. Proceeds from the sales tax have helped complete the Boot Hill Visitor Center, a raceway and now a convention center. These projects are primarily geared to tourist but they do create jobs and help preserve a part of Dodge City's history.
Juxtapose this with the privately owned casino facility with its state-owned gaming equipment on the outskirts of town and I wonder who, if anyone, receives a benefit from it.

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