When I signed on with the Sierra Mesa spread out of Faywood, New Mexico, I wasn’t exactly a greenhorn. I had earned my spurs working for the Cedar Springs Ranch based in the Music Mountains of Arizona, and had worn a bit of leather off the tree riding for other outfits in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. I had even tried my hand at bronc riding but soon decided that was a good living if you didn’t plan on living long. During my John Wayne period I learned that as with any profession, there were plenty of folk that are quite adept at giving a lick and a promise. They work harder at appearing to work than if they had simply put their shoulder to the wheel and got the job done. The entire crew pays the price for their showmanship, especially if they can bluff the trail boss or foreman.
When it comes to tourism, a key component in economic development, some communities prefer to give it a lick and a promise. Others put their shoulder to the wheel. In a nutshell the tourism/hospitality classes developed for Mohave Community College, and the presentation/workshop that is a condensed version of those classes was conceived as a means to provide tools for communities that want more than a lick and a promise approach to tourism development. I designed these under the Jim Hinckley’s America banner for places along the Route 66 corridor but can adapt them to work with any town.
Can you see the lick & promise?
A common mistake made by many communities is the transformation of the visitor center into the destination rather than the point of entry. This is the easiest way to give a lick and promise. It’s also the easiest way to fool the trail boss, especially if you can show pretty graphs and numbers. On the ranch the fellow bucking hay could give a lick and promise performance by stacking the bales so the barn looked full, and adding a bit of water to the sweat band in his hat. With tourism the lick and promise approach is just as hollow.
What is being promoted? Hidden behind the banner is a sign advertising the world’s only electric vehicle museum.
The lick and promise approach to tourism works to outshine what is perceived to be competition when in actuality it is an opportunity to build a powerful cooperative partnership. Of course even that requires to much effort so energy is wasted on creating the illusion of success, instead of simply saddling up and getting the job done.
With the lick and promise approach time is wasted deriving excuses for missed opportunity. This works for a bit but soon it is like the story of the emperor with no clothes. Folks notice but don’t want to be the first to point out the farce.
So, what’s the answer for communities where the lick and promise approach to tourism is deemed good enough? Education. Educated grassroots initiatives. Educated grassroots initiatives that can develop cooperative partnerships. Educated grassroots initiatives that can develop cooperative partnerships that maximize use of all available resources. Educated grassroots initiatives that use partnerships and resources that transform the community into a destination for visitors and for people looking for a great place to live, to retire, to open a business and to raise a family.
Pontiac in Illinois is a town where the lick and promise approach isn’t good enough, and it shows. Photo Jim Hinckley’s America
So do you live in a community where a lick and promise is deemed good enough?
It has been a week of contrasts. Last weekend I was in
Burbank, Los Angeles, and Pasadena. This week business took me to the original Las Vegas, Tucumcari, and a few points in between. At every stop, in every meeting, in every conversation, and with each presentation made, I found inspiration and was introduced to innovative plans for community development and revitalization. To balance that out I also found ample reason for despondency when meditating on communities that seem to have made the squandering of opportunity a goal.
Kix on 66 in Tucumcari is indicative of how this community is being transformed.
When you roll into Tucucmari from the west there is no indication that this is a community ripe with passionate optimism or enthusiasm about the future. The highway, old U.S. 66, is lined with empty and vandalized motels and truck stops, and overgrown foundations. The surprisingly modern and expansive convention center parking lot is peppered with weeds growing through the cracks. In the historic business district the collapse of a building necessitated closure of a street, vacant lots between buildings hint of what once was, and there are empty store fronts on every street. Simply put, there is ample evidence to support a rather sobering statistic – the population has dropped almost 16% since 2,000.
Not quite as obvious is the evidence that this community is still vibrant, that it is still looking toward toward the future with eager anticipation and even vision. Three historic motels along the Route 66 corridor, one of which is in need of extensive refurbishment, recently sold to investors that have relocated to Tucumcari. The state of the art Tucumcari Bio Energy Company is about to commence production. This coming week a new restaurant will open. During my visit I enjoyed an open air dinner and lively conversation with fifty people from Norway, clients of a company that now includes an overnight stay in Tucumcari with each Route 66 tour. An event that centers on touring the area by bicycle this fall is under development, and is already attracting interest from enthusiasts from Texas as well as New Mexico and Colorado. At a meeting of the city commissioners, there was not one public comment that contained a complaint without suggestion of a solution.
I was in town to teach but as it turned out, I also was a student. David Brenner, owner of the Roadrunner Lodge (a formerly abandoned and vandalized 1960’s motel that is now a destination for Route 66 enthusiasts) had facilitated sponsorship of my presentation on the utilization of heritage tourism as a component in the creation of an integrated economic development plan, and as a tool in community revitalization, with the Tucumcari Quay County Chamber of Commerce, Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, and Tucumcari Main Street initiative. In addition to the presentation where I shared a summary of successes in Pontiac, Illinois, Galena, Kansas, and Cuba, Missouri, and outlined ways the community could capitalize on its heritage, I also introduced Steve LeSueur of My Marketing Designs. LeSueur’s company is producing the Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 video series, and is developing the Promote Route 66 initiative utilizing the Promote Kingman template.
The Q & A session was spirited and lively. It was also inspirational and educational. These community leaders are well aware of Tucumcari’s history but they are looking toward the future. I confirmed this when speaking before the Rotary Club, attending the city commissioners meeting latter that day, and at an informal reception with the owners of the Blue Swallow Motel, their friends, and the president of the Route 66 Association of New Mexico.
Rounding out my visit and exploratory tour of Tucumcari was the weekly Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook live program. This episode took place at Kix on 66, a great place for breakfast and a living time capsule. Guests on the program were Steve LeSueur, Melissa Beasley, president of the Route 66 Association of New Mexico, and KC Keefer, producer of the Unoccupied Route 66 video series as well as promotional videos for the city of Tucumcari.
To say the very least, my visit to Tucumcari was educational and inspirational. It was also sobering and even a bit depressing, especially when my thoughts turned toward another Route 66 community, a place where self serving factions, apathy, divisions, indifference, and obstruction negate opportunity as well as blunt the promise of bright future.
There is an old adage that the two certainties in life are
death and taxes. There are, however, two more adages that you can bank on. One, times change, whether we like it or not. Two, it is up to you to create the survival guide for the modern era and to keep it updated. In short, adapt and learn to adapt or face the consequences. You can bet money that the best blacksmith in town had fallen on hard times by 1915 if he hadn’t added automobile repair to the services offered.
By 1918 the Fred Harvey had adapted to changing times by adding touring coaches as a means to ensure hotel properties remained profitable. Courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts.
The Fred Harvey Company pioneered development of hotel and restaurant chains. They didn’t, however, rest on their laurels after dominating the railroad hotel business in the southwest. They developed tours, added buses, and began marketing to tourists traveling by automobile.
As an author I have, with a degree of success, made the transition from typewriter and carbon paper to word processor. Marketing, a crucial skill for the writer that is going to transition from hobbyist, is another matter. There are indications that I have been somewhat successful in regards to shameless self promotion. As an example, yesterday I learned that Route 66: America’s Longest Small Townis going into a second printing even though the book was released this past April.
Before you ask, I haven’t won the lottery. An uncle did pass away last year
but he wan’t wealthy, and he didn’t include me in his will. As to treasure, last month I found a 1939 dime in my change, and acquired a promotional brochure for Dinosaur Caverns (now Grand Canyon Caverns). So, you may ask, how do I intend to share the wealth? What, exactly, are the golden opportunities alluded to? To explain that, I will need to start with a bit of shameless self promotion.
First, I am taking to the road again. On July 22, I will be signing books and the new DVD at Autobooks-Aerobooks, 2900 Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California. There are other tentative appearances in southern California that bracket the one in Burbank but these are awaiting confirmation. I will provide dates, times, and locations as soon as possible. Also, please feel free to contact me to schedule an appearance; a book signing, a presentation, or both. For the 2017 season I have created a presentation entitled Kingman, Arizona: 120 Years of Tourism.
The presentation may seem a bit narrow in scope. However, as it includes tales of Louis Chevrolet, Buster Keaton, and Clark Gable, political intrigue that resulted in the rerouting of a highway, and the arrest of a celebrity for indecent exposure, I am confident that you will find it interesting.
One more. In April, two new books with Jim Hinckley in the byline were released. To be a bit more specific, it was one new book, Route 66: America’s Longest Small Town, and an expanded version second edition, Ghost Towns of the West. In September, 100 Things To Do On Route 66 Before You Dieis scheduled for release. At the end of May, the first DVD in a new video series, Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 was released. Signed copies of books are available through this blog, and the DVD, with autograph and Kingman, Arizona souvenir, is available through Promote Kingman. When inquiring about book orders include zip code, totals and payment options will be included in the response. (more…)
Over the years death has come in many forms on iconic Route 66. The
highways realignment or construction of a bypass was often the death knell for communities and businesses. The ever increasing flow of traffic, including broken down Model A Fords and powerful new Buick Roadmaster sedans, on a highway peppered with narrow bridges that left no room for error, as well as blind curves, steep grades, long stretches without a shoulder, and gas stations that offered a free six pack of beer with every fill up of the tank all contributed to the moniker “Bloody 66.”
A wreck on Route 66. Photo courtesy the Joe Sonderman collection.
Shortly after WWII, two brothers opened a service station in western Arizona. Using a homemade wrecker to fulfill a contract with the state to remove wrecks from the highway, they soon discovered that there was gold in the tangled wrecks, broken glass, and carnage. Within twelve months they were able to pay cash for a brand new truck with Holmes wrecker body. Within three years they had three trucks and operated three shifts. (more…)