Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Plan to promote tourism needs context

By the Advocate Editorial Board
April 5, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.
Updated April 4, 2014 at 11:05 p.m.

When it comes to tourism, Victoria has some great resources. Our hometown is surrounded by pieces of Texas history, is home to several museums, is fairly close to the coast, has multiple unique festivals in town and in surrounding communities year-round and has plenty of hotel rooms either ready or in progress to house visitors.

But all this is meaningless if Victoria can't get visitors to stop in our community, former mayor Will Armstrong said in the April 1 Victoria City Council meeting. Armstrong pointed to the work that has been done in downtown Victoria - including replacing pipes, repaving the streets, redoing the sidewalks, landscaping new signs and more - as a good start, but it is still a work in progress. Downtown Victoria is still changing, evident by the number of businesses that have closed in the past year, and has not yet become the central hub of Victoria we would like it to be.

However, Armstrong believes he has a solution to the need to attract more tourists to Victoria and encourage them to stay. At the meeting, Armstrong proposed building a $425,000 free-standing visitors center at the intersection of North and Main streets.

"If we start now, it is realistic to think we could have a plan ready in the first quarter of 2015," he said.

The idea has the support of several business owners and community members, as shown at the City Council meeting when about a dozen people expressed their support for the idea. Proponents say it will offer visitors and current residents a way to find out more about what attractions are available in our area. Currently, visitors are directed to the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 700 Main Center.

We are glad to see community leaders and business owners are invested in finding a way to attract more tourism to Victoria. However, we agree with the City Council's decision to approach this idea with a bit more caution. There was a time when visitors centers were the ideal places to find information about a community. But in today's tech-savvy world where the majority of Americans carry smartphones, we have to wonder how many people actually stop at a visitors center when the Internet is only a flick of the finger away.

Before the city agrees to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new building, we encourage officials to take a more in-depth look at other communities that have made a similar investment. Did the center make a substantial difference in tourism numbers? How was the visitors center promoted to encourage tourists to stop by? Does the style of the building itself have any influence on the success of the center? These are important questions that need to be answered before Victoria invests in a new building.

It may be that a new visitors center will serve as a strong attraction for tourists and help promote the area's offerings. But without more information, this seems like more of a shot in the dark than an effective solution. Victoria officials need more information before saying yes or no to this project.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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