“You must sell the experience first and the location second,” said Roger Brooks, the president and CEO of Destination Development International and one of the most sought-after experts in creating great destinations.
Brooks was the guest speaker Wednesday at the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau’s second annual State of Tourism luncheon. He shared general advice on attracting tourists and observations of Augusta’s tourism efforts.
Successful tourism efforts are built on product, not marketing, and Augusta’s CVB is one of the first in Georgia to have a product development professional on its staff, Brooks said.
It’s also important to bring downtown to life, invest in retail beautification – including more trees along streets – make public markets a year-round part of downtown and create good first impressions at gateways.
“When they come into Augusta, they’re going to judge the book by the cover,” Brooks said.
Baby boomers account for 80 percent of all travel spending. Brooks said they want culinary experiences, art, ethnic events and home and garden activities. Echo boomers, or millenials, born between 1977 and 1994, like the same types of attractions, as well as the environment.
“This is the age of third places. You need to create third places. The first place is the place where we live, our home. The second place is the place we work. The third place is the place we go to hang out. Those are downtowns,” Brooks said.
Successful destinations need central gathering places, such as outdoor cafes.
“That’s what visitors and locals want. If you’re losing your young people, a good reason might be is that you’re losing your third places or you don’t have them,” he said.
Successful cities must also transition to the European standard, which allows people to eat and shop later.
“Seventy percent of all consumer spending takes place after 6 p.m. I went to downtown Broad Street last night, and I could have shot a cannon down the street. You’re building a convention center ... but when we’re there after a conference, we spend our money when we’re done,” Brooks said.
He emphasized the importance of way-finding systems. Augusta has made efforts, but he recommended having signs that “connect the dots” and lead to specific things, such as James Brown’s statue. He also recommended pedestrian way-finding signs.
“When we see the Masters here, we assume that all of Augusta is going to be stunningly beautiful. You’re a great city, Augusta. But in the end, you must deliver on the promise. We have high expectations when we’re coming here,” he said.