Route 66 continues to provide communities along that highway corrdior with unique opportunies for economic development and historic distric revitalization. These opportunities will be magnified as we draw closer to the Route 66 centennial in 2026.
This is in stark contrast to the general trends detailed in a recent study of post COVID pandemic tourism conducted by the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations specialized agency. Projections derived from the study indicate that a full recovery to pre 2020 levels is unlikely until at least 2024. And that is wholly dependent on economic recovery, political stability, and waning COVID surges.
“Global tourism experienced a 4% upturn in 2021, compared to 2020 (415 million versus 400 million). However, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) were still 72% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to preliminary estimates by UNWTO. This follows on from 2020, the worst year on record for tourism, when international arrivals decreased by 73%”.
Since 1994 the Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona has been a leader in the development of several innovative initiatives to revitalize the Route 66 corridor and promote the city. Examples incude the acquisition and restoration of historic neon signage, graffitti clean up servicces, and the hosting of groups such as the Dutch Route 66 Association tour in 2019.
Kingman Main Street have also taken a leadership postion with an array of projects. In early 2021 the organization initiated development of phase one of a narrated, self guided historic district walking tour. Kiosks at select sites will have historic photos from the archives of the Mohave Museum of History & Arts. There will also be a brief description, credit for sponsor and QR code that links to a website created by MyMarketing Designs.
On the website there will be a photo overlay that presents a then and now view. There will also be an extended audio recording by author Jim Hnckley of Jim Hinckley’s America, a 360 degree photo, and a map that shows the next point of interest as well as nearby businesses. Phase one of the tour and a plaza that includes a Route 66 walk of fame are scheduled to be unveiled during the National Road Trip Day proclamation events on May 27.
Also scheduled to be unveiled will be a statue of author Jim Hinckley at the center of the plaza.The sculpture is being created by English born figurative bronze sculptor, J. Anne Butler. Her work includes commissions by the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library and for European gardens.
In many communites organizations such as these are taking the bull by the horns and working to capitalize on the international popularity of Route 66, and the forthcoming centennial. They are also building powerful cooperative partnerships in the international Route 66 community.
A manifestation of this was the recent anniversary celebration of the National Scenic Byway designation for the Route 66 corridor between Needles and Barstow that took placce in Needles, California. In attendance were the toruism director from Atlanta, Illinois, represntatives from the Texas Old Route 66 Association, and displays to highlight the innovative Route 66 Navigation app developed by Touch Media based in Bratislava, Slovakia.
For Route 66 communities the post COVID period is an opportunity for tremendous economic development.