Mar 302016

By Nolan Madden
The economic downturn, labeled by some analysts as The Great Depression of the 2000s, has hit the hospitality and tourism industries hardest over the past seven years.
Data in a March 2015 study published by Sage Publications on behalf of the Travel and Tourism Research Association revealed that in 2008, spending by total tourism demand in Canada suffered its first decline in five years and that, in addition to international travel, travel spending in the United States fell by $638 million in the first quarter of 2008–a startling 18 percent decrease, according to the report.
Despite the fiscal roller-coaster ride since then, the travel bug seems to be biting once again, as sightseeing and excursions are on a rebound, according to some area businesses.
At the recent annual Winslow Chamber of Commerce dinner, chamber officials shared with its members an exciting recent statistic.
“At our latest strategic planning session, we found that tourism was up 33 percent from the previous year,” said Winslow Chamber Executive Director Bob Hall.
According to Hall, the chamber attributes the increase directly to overnight lodging visits at the city.
“That 33 percent is marked by the dollars received in bed tax, which is where we saw the increase,” said Hall.
“That 33 percent was unbudgeted money, basically, so we find ourselves with a little extra money that we have on-hand to spend.”
Hall added that during their planning retreat, members of the chamber board exchanged a slew of community initiatives, which they aim to work into their upcoming budget, with city council approval.
“One of the big things we are looking at creating is a mobile app, which would be totally free to our tourists,” said Hall, noting that the app would be “everything Winslow,” along with the surrounding regions, and would include videos, and even listings of restaurants, with their menus.
“It’s the coolest app, you won’t believe how cool it is.”
The app would map tourists to local points of interest and then provide them with an historical description for each destination, which can be read on the fly.
“If they go to the 9/11 memorial, for instance, the app will tell visitors how we acquired those beams, why we have them, and their significance,” he said.
Hall also noted that the budget monies are marked to fund the installation of new outdoor digital signage at the Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center location, to be used to announce local event related information.
Tourists would do well to keep their mobile devices charged on future visits to the city, as expanded opportunities for selfie photos are also on the way.
“We’re also planning on installing a 24/7 live-feed camera. So, if I were from Minnesota, I could stand on the corner, call my brother and then tell him to log-on to the chamber website to stream live video of me right from the statue, in real time. Or I could call my mom in Japan and do the same thing,” said Hall.
“This will take standing on the corner to a new level,” he remarked, adding that members should stay tuned for additional chamber plans in the works.