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Douglas County searching for a sign

by Sharlene Irete
Nevada Appeal News Service
This gateway sign in Minden is one example of a good sign that helps draw tourists. It contains few words and is easy to read. A recent presentation by a tourism expert said drivers have four seconds to read a sign. Belinda Grant/Nevada Appeal News Service
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Signs need to capture the ambiance of the area and “tell the story” of your community, said Roger Brooks, from Destination Development of Olympia, Wash., who was hired to study tourism in the Carson Valley.

Caren Witt, from Down on the Farm gift and scrapbooking store, took Brooks’ suggestions to heart and made a list of things she could do to improve her business.

Since the presentation March 30, she has changed her brochures so the words, “Gifts and Scrapbooking,” are more visible on advertising racks. She learned she should make signs to let customers know about store parking.

“I learned that I had to play up what I was rather than the store name,” Witt said. “If you’re not from here, ‘Down on the Farm’ doesn’t mean anything.”

Witt also took steps to make her business more visible on the Web after she went online and typed in the words, “gifts” and “Minden/Gardnerville,” and nothing came up.

“I called up my Web guy to get that changed right away,” she said.

Brooks said 94 percent of travelers use the Internet as their prime source for travel-planning and purchasing key words on the Web enables a business name to be first on the search page.

Brooks gave his feedback to small-business owners during a presentation sponsored by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center.

Chamber of Commerce Director Skip Sayre said they have plans to change the sign in front of their business at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center.

“We’re going to put visitor info on it just as (Brooks) suggested,” Sayre said. “It’s hard to read so we’re going to change the color.”

Sayre said the presentation was helpful to see the valley through the eyes of a third party.

“You just don’t notice things as much when you see something every day,” Sayre said. “When you put a fresh eye on it, it’s a really positive thing to set us on the right track.”

Brooks also told about the power of restrooms.

“The No. 1 reason people stop is to use restrooms,” he said. “It creates sales. Once they’re out of their cars, you have four times the chance to get them to spend money.

“I’ve assessed 38 communities in Nevada, and outside of Tahoe, Carson Valley could be the best,” Brooks said. “But you need to let people know what you have here that’s different than what they have at Lake Tahoe.”

The presentation was not the end of the exercise, Sayre said meetings will be set up to see what can be done to make the valley more attractive to visitors when the chamber receives the formal assessment report from Brooks.

“Once we get a report, we’ll sit with a group and do a workshop to create a list,” he said. “If we got 50 suggestions, we won’t do them all, but will decide what can get done. We’ll look at our current product and adjust it to make it more tourist-friendly.

“There’s lot of tools out there and the role of the chamber of commerce is to provide those tools for small businesses so they can decide what applies to them. We want people to help themselves and be proactive.”

Brooks, who also spoke at a tourism conference in Carson City last week, said a city, like Carson needs branding to be a successful tourism draw.

Branding is the process where a city’s primary destination and diversions are promoted by a marketing campaign and slogan directed at tourists. Branding, is what’s missing in Carson City, he said.

Brooks’ focus at the conference was on making Carson City, and other rural areas, more of a tourism draw, such as making Carson City the destination rather than Reno or Lake Tahoe.