The South Shore has plenty going for it, but there are lots of ways it can improve.
© Nick Moase Photo
Roger Brooks of Roger Brooks International gave a report on tourism destinations in Queens in Shelburne on Oct. 23. He had plenty of suggestions on ways to improve the experience for visitors.
Earlier this year Destination South West Nova Scotia hired Roger Brooks of Roger Brooks International to "mystery shop" along the South Shore. Brooks is an expert in the field of tourism, community branding, downtown development and destination marketing. He presented his report on the Queens and Shelburne area on Oct. 23 at White Point Beach Resort.
His suggestions were aimed just as much at promoting an area as they were to getting people to take in the sights when they arrive.
To think like a tourist, Brooks said the first place to start is to know how they get their information. Before people ever decide where to go, they research locations on the Internet. He said that is where anyone in the tourism industry should look to improve and make investments.
Once here, information on the area needs to be available 24/7 365 days a year. An easy way to do that is to have brochures in a kiosk outside of the visitor information centres.
"If it's not obvious, we skip it," he said.
Brooks said tourism promoters need to stop trying to be all things to all people, and instead focus on "anchor tenants." Those are the "best of's" a community has to offer, whether it is places to hike or where to eat. Everyone else will see benefits from this as well.
One of the common threads among all the destinations he saw was marketing locations rather than things to do. That approach doesn't work, he said.
"Quit marketing cities, counties and towns. People are looking for things to do and locations are secondary," he said.
In his report, Brooks focused in on a few communities that offered things to do. One of his stops was downtown Liverpool, and he said has a lot going for it. It had a lot of charm, and knowing the situation with the mill he said it was even more important to make the downtown as appealing to tourists as they can.
One of those ways is with curb appeal, he said. Most tourists judge whether or not a store is good to go into based on looks more than anything else.
"We're going to judge the quality of the business based on the quality of the signs," he said.
He had high praise for the Fort Point Lighthouse area, saying the experience was exceptional, and the streetscape very appealing.
However he did have some critiques of the town. One suggestion was to have upcoming events at the Astor Theatre in a visible location. Another was to get rid of parking metres on Main Street. He says the day he was here there was barely anyone else using the parking spaces. What they end up doing is discouraging tourists from parking downtown.
It can be just as much about the people in the community as it is what they have to offer as well.
He cited an example in Lockeport, where on taking in the Canada Day parade he and his wife were told it was a community only event. While he recognizes that does not likely reflect the attitude of most of the community, experiences like that will turn off people from visiting again.
He was also very critical of businesses that cater to tourists not staying open after 6 p.m.
"Seventy per cent of all retail consumer spending takes place after 6 p.m.," he said.
This is because tourists are busy taking in activities, whether it be hiking, visiting museums or any other activity. At the end of the day they don't want to be stuck in their hotel room watching TV, but want something light to do.
The full report will be available on the Destination Southwest website at a later date.