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Tourism Plan Makes Sense


Iowa City Press-Citizen

May 3, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

Area communities joining their tourism marketing should boost the number of local visitors.

Last week, five communities along Interstate 380 -- part of the "Avenue of the Saints" -- unveiled their "Heart of the Saints" plan, which hopes to draw travelers to Eastern Iowa. They should find their sum is greater than their parts.

Indeed, regional marketing is a smart approach to attracting tourists locally. Iowa City/Coralville, the Amana Colonies, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Cedar Falls each have a few elements of their own to lure day-trippers or cross-country RVers. But each gains more attention by focusing on what they offer collectively. It makes our region, rather than any one city, a destination.

That's a successful strategy employed by many other areas. Mississippi Valley Partners, for example, jointly promotes communities along the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin in Minnesota and Wisconsin as "100 Miles of Friends." Twelve counties in Southeast Missouri market themselves as the "River Heritage Region."

Not only do they attract more interest when sold as a region, they also save dollars on advertising. Joint marketing means shared costs for promoting individual events and attractions in each community. Initially this will be done via a Web site that offers general information about the area, sample itineraries and links to each participating community's site. Regional information also will be available via a toll-free phone number. Promotional items and giveaways are planned as well.

Developing a slogan that identifies the area is key to success. Kudos to whoever thought of "Heart of the Saints." It's a great catch phrase that is easy to remember and describes our location: between St. Louis and St. Paul, Minn., which the new four-lane Avenue of the Saints connects.

Regional marketing takes much planning. The five bureaus have been developing their effort for the past half-year. Once fully up and running, it should draw a number of people to the area who might not have realized what we have to offer.

Hopefully other communities will join the effort. Kalona's rich Amish heritage and Nashua's Little Brown Church quickly come to mind as good add-ons. And West Branch, with the Hoover Presidential Library and Birthplace, isn't any farther of a side trip off the Avenue of the Saints than the Amanas.

The issue:

Five communities along Interstate 380 will join efforts to market the area as a tourist destination.

We suggest:

Marketing as a region offers the most bang for the buck.
What do you think?

Will promotion of the region boost local tourism?

Send comments to Opinion Page, P.O. Box 2480, Iowa City, Iowa 52245 or e-mail to opinion@press-