(Oct 31, 2012) In 2000 I completed a late life Masters degree in Tourism Marketing at NYU.
The major lesson I learned was, it is easier and cheaper to make a visitor a repeat visitor who brings friends than to entice a new visitor to a destination. Therefore, improving the visitor experience at a destination is as important or more important than spending advertising money at the visitor point of origin.
So, when then President of NYC & Company (and runner) Cristyne Nicholas asked me to manage a desk of volunteers who would provide NYC information I accepted. I asked her why there had never been a booth before and she said she asked her staff and they said, "Why should we market to them, they are already here." From 2000-2004, I and a group of Big Apple Greeters and Tourism students did market to Marathon Expo visitors. I also learned more about visitor needs from one to one interactions than I would ever learn from surveys.
After 9/11 I called about volunteering for the 2nd year and the staff wondered if we were doing the booth again. The Marathon was the first time a large group of people would be visiting to see the world along the course and away from the WTC site. The booth happened and visitors were grateful.
The biggest request from people was a course map. Visitors were more than willing to cheer their friends on the course if only they could have a map so they could make plans with their runners before then. The only available map was the one from Roadrunners that was a quarter of a page. That improved slightly when Roadrunners and NYPIRG's community assistance mapping project (no longer in existence) joined forces. Also, the MTA joined us and handed out subway and bus information.
Starting in 2005, NYC GO only used volunteers at the booth. Eventually there was no longer a booth. By 2011, even the MTA didn't have a booth in the EXPO although they had a MetroCard truck outside. In fact, last year at the EXPO there were booths from states and countries all over the world encouraging runners to come and visit "them". The only booth encouraging tourism in New York was run by the National Parks Department of New York.
Right NOW the EXPO is scheduled to open tomorrow Nov 1, 2012. The City is focused on restoring services after hurricane Sandy but is also committed to making the ING NYC Marathon happen. I suspect that some of the EXPO exhibitors may have trouble arriving. Think about this for next year if it is too late for this year but.....
Neighborhood Alliances and Borough Tourism Offices...Show up at the EXPO! (Next year have a real booth and specific offers) Bring MAPS! Invite our visitors to your neighhood now and in future, better, times. Adopt licensed tour guides who can teach our visitors how to ride the subway and lead them to your special part of New York. Band together to fund the cost of your booths. NYCGO do the same. Use this opportunity to invite our visitors back!
If my visitors' plane isn't cancelled tomorrow, I will be working for the day. On Friday, I intend to visit the EXPO to see how the Marathon EXPO has fared in the wake of Sandy.
More posts related to visitors and possible tours to come.