Speer: Getting the word out about Alpena

I was glad Gov. Rick Snyder was in Alpena this week and dove the wreck of the Monohansett in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Who knew the governor was a registered diver? Yet again I was impressed by the versatility and energy this governor brings with him to any gathering.

Gov. Snyder used the occasion to promote the importance of the state’s “Pure Michigan” campaign in getting the tourism message out to the public. He shared with reporters that jewels such as the diving in Thunder Bay need to be shared with everyone. There is an incredible history under the water, the governor said, that is located in a beautiful and breath-taking region.

Of course he is right. The message does need shared.

The question that sometimes arises, however, is with who?

Getting the message out to non-residents seems like a no-brainer, to which I would whole-heartedly agree. Toward that extent, Pure Michigan has proven to be a very capable vehicle of pushing the message to potential tourists.

Pure Michigan also has another aspect to it as well, however, and that is a “home-grown” element that caters to state residents. Pure Michigan officials understand that the target group of state residents is just as important, if not more so, than out-of-state guests.

That perspective jives with a contention I believe always is important when discussing local tourism efforts, and that is if we want to grow tourism locally (and who would argue with that), then we have to continue the effort of educating our own residents first.

I remain amazed sometimes when talking with local residents who don’t know important tourism-related information about our region. Much of the information I would consider basic. Most of the people asking the questions are residents who have lived here for 10 years or more.

Here are some examples I can think of off the top of my head this morning that residents have discussed with me over the past year.

  • What days are the farmers market open? Where again is it located?

Can I rent a boat someplace?

I’m not a diver, isn’t there a display or something to see regarding the shipwrecks? Where is it located?

I heard they were doing away with parking downtown to build a mall or something. What’s up with that?

What night is the concert down at the bandshell?

Just as important as a solid knowledge of local tourism opportunities is a good attitude and impression to leave with guests.

Again, I cringe when I go into places to shop and find the clerk having a bad day. It’s understandable there will be bad days, just don’t share your feelings with the rest of the world.

For the record I will point out employees here at The Alpena News sometimes have bad days as well. I will be the first to admit we could stand to get better at this as well. All of us need to project a positive and upbeat attitude to the public.

My point is we want to leave guests with a positive experience of our community. We want them to share a positive story with their friends and family of their visit. We want their excitement to be shared, and then experienced, by others.

To accomplish that we need to remind ourselves of what is good, what is special about where we live. We need to keep educating ourselves as to our assets and strengths.

Too often we take things for granted. We need to view the region with the same eyes as a visitor might.

If we do, I believe all of us will really like what we see, and learn something new in the process.

I know the governor did. So can you.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.