Thursday, April 23, 2020

Using Tourism to Enhance Small Downtowns of Escanaba and Gladstone

Many American towns are starting to look a little drab and have that droopy worn out retro image that gives the impression the best days were well behind them! With some elbow grease leaders can take actions that lead to vibrant, business oriented, and attractive main streets. Developing healthy small business districts rests in part on enhancing local culture by thinking about business strategy and its impact on attracting visitors to the district.

While there are many components to creating strong downtowns, enhancing tourism and tourist businesses has a positive net effect on the local economy. We also have opportunities to improve manufacturing and resource extraction that are outside the scope of this article (Will be discussed in more detail in another article). Using research and success stories from other towns we can learn to apply them to Escanaba and Gladstone.

The design of downtowns is vital to the life and energy of small cities. With progressive downtown strategies these areas can have a positive net draw of visitors, investment and businesses. According to a study of tourist and recreational town of Ashville in the Western North Carolina mountains, the use of marketing and tourist development strategies increased overnight visitors in a way that enhanced local life through increased revenue (Stroma & Kersteinb, 2015).

From a tourism perspective, people who spend the night in the area also frequent shops, eat dinner, and spend their disposable income. A night in a local hotel often has a per night dollar value associated with it. New visitors and tourists mean more money to the downtown area and new businesses that want to tap tourist money (i.e. less empty store fronts).

The study highlights four components of downtown growth in their case study:

1. Research Your Tourism Market: Synthesize tourism area life cycle and tourism research approaches. Continuing to understand seasonal fluctuations in tourism in vacation destinations and connecting research can lead to enhanced marketing and tourism retention strategies. One way this may function is to not only to continually improve on marketing strategies to further increase ROI (i.e. neuroeconomics and psychographics) but also enhance tourist time/dollars spent in local establishments.

2.Community Spaces:  Effective use of public space enhances the community and aesthetic appeal of the downtown. People visit where they feel vibrant and alive! That includes anything from "walkability", bike paths into downtown, community areas, mini parks, food courts, and much more. What and how is dependent on the tourism genre, local culture and physical limitations of the area.

3. Downtown Branding: Branding the downtown with local culture in mind. Few people want to visit a "hodge podge" locality of confusing themes and activities. They want to immerse themselves in a local culture of fun, lively activities that co-mingle with a great shopping experience. Considering a general theme (i.e. Yooper or Eskimo) throughout the downtown can do much to raise its stature among tourist communities. The long term goal would be make it a "trendy" place for Millenials to travel, eat, shop and build businesses.

4. Local Governance Structures: Officials and entities like Downtown Development Authorities and local city government should focus part of their effort on rebuilding their downtown districts. Coordinated effort in drawing investments into the area and opening up new businesses in empty store fronts is essential to re-emergence. This may mean working with tourism experts and economists to ensure maximize enhancement of opportunities. 

Stroma, E. & Kersteinb, R. (May, 2015). Mountains and muses: Tourism development in Asheville, North Carolina. Annals of Tourism Research, 52,pp. 134-147

This is part of a larger work that fits within a bigger economic theory. You may want to review another article on attracting SME to Delta County.

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