Where are they?

If you build it, they will come. Really?  Where are they, how many, and what did they come to see? If How were they identified and verified?

This blanket “they” to which we refer are tourists/visitors we were told to expect in our home town following the HGTV production “Home Town Kickstart.” As we understand, six small communities across the nation were selected from thousands of submissions. For Minden to have been chosen was no small feat. Thanks to whomever did the work to get it accomplished. 

That said, all who don’t want to see the underside of the blanket exposed can get their stingers out. 

Our town was kickstarted in April of this year. Prior to arrival of the production company and the renovation specialists, meetings were held between local business owners, city officials and the individuals responsible for getting the attention of a national network plus PEOPLE Magazine. 

We heard local business owners were told to get ready for the influx. Owners were urged to clean up, stock up and staff up because “they” would be on the way. If what we read and hear is a measure, numbers haven’t measured up to expectations. We haven’t heard people exclaiming, “there they are.”

According to a recent news story covering a meeting of the local Webster Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau, the board was told inquiries for accommodations in town were up 69 percent from a year ago. Percentagely, that’s hefty, but it hasn’t translated to heads in beds, rears in restaurants or bodies in businesses.

If we had heard numbers rather than percentage, maybe that would be something we could appreciate. Some of us would be curious to know how many, as in is it many or few, inquiries from potential visitors we get about our town each year. The graph might be static; it might look like the Rockies’ silhouette. We’d like to know whether we’re trending up or other. 

It might also be cool to ask local merchants if they have realized an increase in sales since we’ve had an inquiry increase. Inquiring minds would like to know if information-seeking calls, cards and letters translate to cash.

A later news story asked if business owners, including motels and eateries, had seen an increase in tourist types. Answers ranged from “no” to “not many.” Apparently only one business had kept a record of out-of-towners who had dropped in. It would be nice if there was an accurate (or even semi-accurate) tracking system. We can always estimate, but sometimes that depends on who benefits from the estimates.

Maybe it’s a little early to determine the impact of the television presentation on our tourist flow. It has, after all, been only a few months. But, with all the hype locally, one might be forgiven for thinking even the casual observer would notice an increase in other-place license plates, if there had been one.

Our Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Commission isn’t an organization that receives a lot of attention. Its meetings aren’t widely publicized, and from what we hear, aren’t heavily attended other than media persons who may sit in on the proceedings. That’s where we picked up the aforementioned information. If there had been no press attending, would we have known anything? 

We’re not casting doubts on the intentions of anyone who made the effort to attract attention to our home town. Lord knows we need a positive impetus and visitors who will return to their regions with great things to say about us. 

Forgive us, though, for suggesting we need something more than a one business-one home facelift, plus a half-acre Miller Quarters “park,” to make Minden a preferred point of destination. And we’d like an occasional by-the-numbers update on how we’re progressing. Transparency is a good thing.