“Success breeds success,” Brooks said.
Having visitor information available at all times is also key to encouraging tourism. Each community should have either pamphlets available at areas frequented by visitors – such as public bathrooms – for them to peruse and consider coming back. Kiosks with QR codes, which can be scanned and read by smart phones, should be standing in other areas with heavy foot traffic. Local suggestions included Lake Red Rock, the Scholte House and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.
“When you’re not open, how much business are you losing?” Brooks said. In all three communities he focused on, all of them disappointed him for not having businesses open after 6 p.m.
He was especially disappointed with the lack of activity around the Mulengracht in Pella, which he believes should be showcased and utilized more. According to Brooks, 70 percent of all consumer retail spending is done after 6 p.m. He believes if more of Pella’s businesses are open until 9 p.m., spending would triple.
Lake Red Rock was an issue all its own for Brooks. He said he could not find ties back to the lake among the communities. Finding an overall “brand” for the county, to bring all of the communities together, remains a challenge presented to tourism leaders.
One suggestion he had was for the county to think of its 10 best food vendors, 10 best destination retail shops and 10 places open after six, and include them in informational materials.
“Even Pella struggled with this one,” Brooks said.
But downtowns have other issues. Brooks believes three-hour parking limits are a “good way to kill downtown.” It discourages people from spending time in the area, thus reducing revenue and repeat business. One community he pointed out, instead of writing parking tickets, are given notices and suggestions of where they can park for free all day. Public lots that allow all-day, free parking need to have big signs to let people know.