All signs point to confusion, tourism expert says
Appeal Staff Writer
After 10 years of living in Carson City, Jack and Phyllis Askew still don’t know where to go downtown to find entertainment, to eat or shop.
If signs aren’t easily readable from the street, then visitors with deep pockets aren’t coming, a national tourism expert said at a Wednesday night tourism-assessment workshop at the Plaza Convention Center. The assessment is the first step in a massive tourism-branding effort started by the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The Askews, who are retired, said they even had trouble finding the convention center, which is tucked away behind the Plaza Hotel, off Carson and Ninth streets.
“That’s our pet peeve, hard to identify street signs” said Phyllis Askew. “We were trying to come here, and we got lost.”
Business owners need to lead the effort to beautify Carson City and make clear signs, said Roger Brooks, president of Destination Management, of Olympia, Wash.
“The potential is tremendous here,” said Brooks. “It is a beautiful city. The downtown could be awesome.”
He presented 50 suggestions in two-and-a-half hours on how the capital city can attract tourists who will spend more money and stay overnight in area hotels. His suggestions included projects that have already been proposed – such as narrowing Carson Street downtown to make it pedestrian- friendly – to arranging downtown business signs perpendicular to the road so that drivers can read them.
“The whole sign situation, it was something I never thought of,” said Deb Dudley, who lives at the lake. “I drive through Carson City everyday, and I never would have thought of adding those signs.”
Brooks spent three days as a tourist in Carson City and enlisted the aid of “secret shoppers” to determine the tourism experience. More than 100 people attended the event.
“It’s great to see ourselves through fresh eyes,” said Jackie Behan, of Dayton.
Brooks praised the area’s restaurants, even billing them as the best in Northern Nevada. He also identified problems that could bug tourists, such as the neon “Bar” sign outside Adele’s that really doesn’t market a gourmet restaurant, or the confusing entrance to Glen Eagles Restaurant on North Carson Street.
He said all these places offer a fabulous diversion to visitors, if they can get to them.
“Being the hub of the area is a great way to start, but you want to be a destination,” Brooks said.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
How Carson fared in the tourism report:
The national tourism expert praised the city for its dining, historical walking tours and the “Divine 9” golf package. The report suggested downtown business beautification, a parking garage and several informational kiosks with pamphlets.
The Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau board will decide soon if it wants to coordinate a community branding, development and marketing action plan. The cost is from $10,000-$15,000 if the bureau contracts with Destination Management, a tourism consulting firm.