SL gives RAGBRAI a rain check, but rolling fast on marketing

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

When an Iowa community can say "no thanks" to RAGBRAI, it probably has something big on the front burner.

And so it is for Storm Lake. Storm Lake Chamber of Commerce Manager Marilyn Monson told local Kiwanians Monday that Storm Lake had been proposed as an overnight stop on this year's cross-state RAGBRAI route for thousands of bikers, but community leaders decided they couldn't accept.

With Project AWAYSIS to be in frantic full-construction mode by summer, the lakefront just wouldn't be ready to host all of those bikers. So Storm Lake declined and the stop went elsewhere, but the city does hope the ride will return after AWAYSIS opens.

While it's been years in planning, Project AWAYSIS will be here before we know it. And there's no better time than now to start getting ready.

Monson told Hy-Noon members about marketing for Project AWAYSIS and Storm Lake as a whole and the benefits the community will receive.

Project AWAYSIS will "bring people to town to experience the community," Monson said. "The more people we can get to Storm Lake, the better we can tell them about the great things we have."

Marketing efforts have already produced excellent results. Just this past weekend, Monson said there were 2,250 visitors to the home and ag show. And, over the Christmas season, more than 7,000 people visited Santa's Castle.

Last August, 10,000 people registered at the Storm Lake booth at the Iowa State Fair, Monson said. "We had a lot of reunions," Monson said of former Storm Lakers meeting each other.

Monson noted three comments from people visiting the booth that indicate how Storm Lake can redouble its efforts to market itself as a tourism destination. Among the comments were: "We go there on the way to the Lakes" meaning the Okobojis; "Clear Lake, Spirit Lake. Oh Storm Lake. So where's that on the map"; and "Storm Lake. I think I ate there once."

Monson noted though that people statewide are excited about Project AWAYSIS and the benefits it will give the community.

"I hope we can get the work out that Storm Lake is on the map and we are about to become a vacation destination," Monson said.

Promotional efforts are ongoing throughout the year with the Storm Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau which targets visitors 50 miles and beyond from Storm Lake.

Tourism is an excellent investment. Proof of that is in the fact that for every $1 spent on tourism promotion, $90 comes in. Unfortunately, unlike neighboring states that have relatively huge tourism promotion budgets, Iowa has fallen behind, said Monson.

"Iowa doesn't advertise outside the state of Iowa," Monson said.

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