Let’s Understand the Full Impact of Tourism, Mobile

Written by David Preston on August 9, 2019 | Opinion Article
Mobile Alabama Skyline – Looking South West

It’s time that the city of Mobile stops using a whack-a-mole approach to handling, developing, and managing the different tourist attractions and tourist draws to the city.

It seems like this administration hops from one issue to another when dealing with properties in this city that have a connection to tourism. For example, the city just recently restructured the debt service on the GulfQuest Maritime Museum.  This is after efforts to bring the Gulf Coast Ducks, getting the Perdido Queen riverboat, as well as other various actions with area museums and other tourist attractions.

Of course, the most high-profile effort to do something with a property that has a connection with tourism is the redevelopment of the Civic Center property. One of the ideas floated in the meeting between the mayor and Mardi Gras association that use the Civic Center for their Mardi Gras activities is updating the economic impact study that was conducted back in 2004 that would give us an idea of the total economic impact Mardi Gras has on the Mobile region.

Not only do I think this is a great idea, I think that we should go further than just Mardi Gras and move away from the piecemeal strategy That has been implemented so far and do a comprehensive economic impact study on the entire tourism industry in Mobile. That economic impact study can just be a starting point for a more coordinated and comprehensive strategy for tourism in Mobile.

Better Data

The last time an economic impact study for Mardi Gras in Mobile was done was in 2004.  We are literally working with MySpace data in a Facebook world. So many things have changed since that study was done, in the city and the way we analyze data, that the study might as well have been completed in 1970. First, there was no cruise ship, there were no GulfQuest or downtown entertainment districts. Mobile has also increased it’s sales tax by1% since then.

Furthermore, why should we limit the impact study just to Mardi Gras? If we can get reliable in-depth data on the impact of our entire tourism industry, we can better target our efforts to maximize that impact. The Cruise Ship consultant that the city hired last year to help it retain and get more business out of the cruise industry said two tools he needed to help him do his job better was an updated economic impact study with an updated household income analysis and marketing study for the surrounding region. Understanding the economic impact and the potential market for the cruise industry in our region will help us better attract more and bigger cruise ships to our cruise terminal.

Likewise, we should take a look at the economic impact of all of the tourist attractions and festivals we have in our city to better understand the impact of those attractions on our city.

Better Marketing Efforts

Back in 2004, we were just beginning to get an understanding of how we could use data and information to maximize the effectiveness of marketing efforts in the new digital age. In 2019, we have a much better understanding of that process. We also understand that the more current data we can get, the more successful those efforts will be. Doing a comprehensive economic impact study along with bringing in someone to Visit Mobile with a degree in data analytics and marketing, Mobile can start to take full advantage of what our data is telling us.

Combining this study with efforts to ramp up Visit Mobile’s Mobile centric marketing efforts, like building email marketing lists and promoting facilities like the new downtown airport and GulfQuest Museum, we should start to see a higher level of success from those efforts.

Combining Efforts

If we had a comprehensive study showing how all of our tourism assets work off of each other, it could spur more cooperation in this area, like combining the management of the city’s museums under one Museum board. More cooperation among the different tourism assets, especially if it led to coordinated events, can old amplify and enhance those marketing efforts.

For example, if we had a coordinated event celebrating the story of Africatown and telling the story of the Clothida, the GulfQuest could have an exhibit to tell the maritime aspects of the story, a planned welcome center and museum in Africatown could tell the human triumph aspects story of the slaves, the History Museum could tell the story of the federal trial of the Captain of the ship, the Oakleigh Museum could tell the Thomas Meaher story, and the Art Museum could have an exhibit or West African art and artifacts on display.  That is just one example of what could be accomplished with a comprehensive understanding of our tourism assets and better coordination.

So let’s stop being analog in a digital world when it comes to our understanding and comprehension of our tourism industry in Mobile.

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