“You need to ride Pella’s coat tails,” Brooks said.
The example he provided is Orlando, Fla. Walt Disney World is a primary attraction that brings millions of visitors to the area each year. Meanwhile, dozens of other tourist opportunities exist and thrive because people already plan to visit the area.
Brooks believes that the county should ignore the “group hug” mentality, that all promotion and marketing should be all inclusive of everything in the county. Instead, marketing should be focused on the most significant attractions, with others being secondary.
Building a successful brand for the county should have a focus on something unique to the area. Slogans such as “something for everyone” do not work, according to Brooks. This is because it does not set the area apart from the majority of other tourist destinations.
“You must jettison the generics,” Brooks said. “You have to narrow your focus.”
Once the focus is found, the key is to continue to develop your tourism product. He said this development never ends and that the communities of Marion County cannot “rest on their laurels” when trying to continue to keep tourism dollars flowing in.
“The days of strategic plans are over,” Brooks said. “We need an action plan.”
Knoxville paid thousands of dollars to RDG Planning and Design in 2007 to develop a strategic plan. Portions of this are being implemented through the Downtown Streetscape project. Among the other recommendations for Knoxville, by RDG, was to improve way-finding signage. Brooks also pointed this out for not only Knoxville, but Pella and Pleasantville as well.
“You have zero way-finding,” Brooks said. He described the difficulty he had in finding Pella Christian High School, where his presentation took place. When he asked for directions, several locals did not know where the school was or how to get there.