There’s never been a better time for small town tourism than right nowPublished 11:04am Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Over the past five years, tourism has made some big changes.
The economy in nosedive was probably the cause, but the result is that as tourists, we have lost interest in cookie cutter attractions. We are now more interested in “authentic,” meaning that small towns can be successful for being exactly what they are – small towns. The new tourist is looking for a variety of new experiences such as local food, agritourism, heritage tourism, geotourism, adventure tourism and so on.
The new face of tourism is more interesting and engaging than ever before. Geotourism is about enjoying natural areas that specifically focus on landscape and environmental awareness. Heritage tourism takes visitors on roads less traveled to explore historic churches, quilt trails or traditional crafts. Authentic tourism attracts visitors who want to see things just as they are.
The Slow Food movement, for example, is about getting people off the interstate and into small towns restaurants where hopefully, they are serving up locally grown foods and sharing local specialties.
This summer my husband and I took several short day trips to Black Mountain, Spruce Pine, Waynesville and Cashiers. I came away with some thoughts about what made each trip enjoyable.
Public bathrooms: Let’s face it, after two glasses of sweet tea on a hot Sunday afternoon, you’re going to need a bathroom. Having available facilities extends your visit for more shopping, museums and dining.
Signage: There’s nothing worse than driving around an unfamiliar town with no directions. Where is downtown? Where is the country doctor museum? Where is the lake? Wayfinding signage can be expensive, but visitors need directions. The more they know, the longer they’ll stay and the more they’ll spend.