My View

Monday, July 11, 2005

A very Star Spangled success

If the crowds that lined Lake Avenue Monday were any indication, Storm Lake's tourism industry is well on the way to finding a life of its own.

The crowds seemed bigger than in previous years, with hardly a bare spot along the parade route. You could see spinoffs too, with a lot more boats out on the lake as people enjoyed a perfect weekend.

The campground was full, and so were the other accommodations around the area. In short, it was good for business.

I hope we can all appreciate this growth in the tourism industry. It represents new dollars, and as the saying goes, every new dollar of revenue generates an additional seven dollars to the economy. Tourism is a very clean industry as well, and it falls in line with the largest-growing area of new jobs as well, the service industry.

One day, I think we'll probably see Project AWAYSIS as being merely the seed that grew into something larger. That might be hard to conceive at this point, but I think that's what will prove true in the end.

What we need to do in order to develop this industry is to rethink who and what we are. I don't think it's any secret that, here in the Midwest, we have a difficult time thinking of ourselves as being a tourism destination. A key is to determine what people want to see and what sort of experience they want to have.

People in cities, for example, want to get away to somewhere that time has slowed to a more tolerable pace. They might even want to see the hands of the clock wound back a little bit. That could be a group of people to which Storm Lake tourism could cater.

There are also the people who are originally from the area who return to visit relatives - like a lot did just over the Fourth of July. In addition to visiting their relatives, they're looking for something to do over an extended weekend.

There are also the people who might just be passing through. The key there is to snag them and make them want to stay. To do that, we need to create the sort of experience that's memorable and unique.

There was an episode in the old Twilight Zone show a few years ago in which this guy kept getting on the train and found that time had slipped back to the previous century. The hectic, modern-day life was just too much for him, and his mind actually created this place where he could find peace.

At the end of the show, the guy finally got off the train for good. As it was, he actually jumped off and splatted all over the railroad tracks. I don't think we want to ask people to go that far. But we could provide an experience different than any other that they've had before.

And they shouldn't have to jump off the train to do it.