Councilor Baer will push for focus on tourism on Monday

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA — City Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) on Monday will urge the City Council to invest $7,500 in booking Roger Brooks of Destination Development International (DDI) to offer a presentation to public officials and business owners on steps — especially "branding" —  that can be taken to enhance the local tourist industry.

Recalling that Brooks spoke on this theme in Franklin in 2007, Baer said that she and others from Laconia who were present left "full of ...

LACONIA — City Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) on Monday will urge the City Council to invest $7,500 in booking Roger Brooks of Destination Development International (DDI) to offer a presentation to public officials and business owners on steps — especially "branding" —  that can be taken to enhance the local tourist industry.

Recalling that Brooks spoke on this theme in Franklin in 2007, Baer said that she and others from Laconia who were present left "full of enthusiasm and determination" to pursue the course he charted. But, she said "it never really went anywhere." 

A year later, said Baer, a team from the United States Environmental Protection Agency identified several challenges facing the local economy. The agency reported that local businesses fail to tap the buying power of city residents while the conversion of rental units to second homes reduced the appeal of seasonal tourist attractions and altered the buying habits of summer visitors.

"Laconia needs a shot in the arm," Baer said, declaring that "first we need to realize that our fortunes lie in our tourism business."

Brooks, Baer said, "shows you how to find your niche and establish your brand" in the competitive market for visitors. She said that he makes a presentation and conducts a seminar during a session lasting four hours followed by an hour of questions and answers. The minimum cost, she said, is $6,500 and another $1,000 would provide for a venue and luncheon.

According to DDI's promotional material the Seattle-based firm has served more than 1,000 clients in North America and Europe, including many municipalities. Brooks outlines three phases in the development of a robust tourist economy — getting passers-by to stop, becoming the hub for attractions and activities in the area and becoming the destination, "the best of all worlds." 

Brooks notes that the baby boom generation, the 85-million born between 1946 and 1964,  controls almost three-quarters of the country's wealth and accounts for 80-percent of all spending on travel. Since empty-nesters travel in April, May, September and October, he advises "Extend your seasons, Get out of the 'summer vacation' mode. Those days are gone."

Another 80 million, Brooks calls "Echo Boomers," the sons and daughters of the original boomers, represent the other major segment of the tourist market.

While both  groups seek culinary adventure, learning experiences and cultural enrichment, Brooks stresses that the echo boomers also crave entertainment, nightlife and extreme sports, like hiking, climbing and biking.

Brooks pictures "branding" as the capstone to becoming "the destination." He describes a brand as a perception, "what people think of you — NOT what you say you are." And he cautions that "if perceptions of your community are negative, you may need to develop a repositioning program," starting with "curb appeal — the visual impressions of the community." Likewise, he warns "resist the urge to market the brand until you can deliver on the promise." 

In a recent letter to this newspaper, Baer remarked that the city has improved its elementary schools, constructed  a new middle school, built a new police station,  and renovated  its library while expansion of the Huot Technical Center and reconfiguration of the playing field at the high school will begin this summer. She concedes that these projects earn "high marks," but adds "they are costing a lot of money and while aesthetically improving the city, they have not contributed to creating permanent jobs or tax revenues."

Following the approach of  DDI, Baer suggests, would not require the city to spend more money and would need "minimum time," "a small committee" and "the enthusiastic support of all those who wish to better their prospects and those who wish to see Laconia and the Lakes Region grow."