June 17, 2015 by Ashley Schable
Tourism happens 365 days a year - in every city and every county - says Shawna Lode, manager of the Iowa Tourism Office at the Iowa Economic Development Authority in Des Moines, where she is responsible for developing and implementing programs that support and promote Iowa’s tourism opportunities for economic growth.
Lode and Shirley Phillips, Director of the Western Iowa Tourism Region, provided an overview of the economic impact tourism has on Guthrie Center during a Chamber meeting on June 9 at the Guthrie Center Activity Center. The event, attended by roughly a dozen community and business leaders in Guthrie Center, explored ideas on how to enhance tourism efforts in the community and the ways local efforts can attract new residents and bring visitors to the area.
“Tourism is an important industry in Iowa because it generates $8 billion in spending,” Lode said. “The money people spend on food, lodging, souvenirs - anything you buy, from the newspaper you pick up at the convenience store, to coffee or pizza at night - travelers bring in money to the state.”
Travelers, Lode said are the best taxpayers.
“They come into our state and spend money and they subsidize programs they don’t use,” she said. “I’ll come here today and I’ll spend my money, but my kids don’t go to school in Guthrie Center. I’m paying for your school, your fire and police and your library. Travelers are great because they come in and give us tax revenues and then they go away and they don’t utilize the things they help pay for.”
According to an annual study by a group in Washington, D.C., Lode said $13 million was left behind by travelers in Guthrie County in 2013. The 2014 statistics will be available this fall.
“A payroll of $1.8 million. One hundred jobs in the county due to the tourism industry. Locally, $320,000 in tax revenues, ” Lode said came from travelers. “Where would your county get that money otherwise?”
Lode, who grew up in Aurelia and graduated from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, said tourism means jobs. On average, every $118,489 spent by domestic travelers in Iowa directly supports one job.
“Tourism gives workers a start and opportunities for growth,” Lode said. “Growing up I was a lifeguard at the pool and I can tell you that not every child swimming at the pool was a resident. They were in town for a week to visit friends and family. It’s a huge part of tourism - opportunities for growth. It puts people back to work.”
Discussing travel trends, Lode said people are taking shorter, more frequent trips nowadays.
“They are staying closer to home,” she said, noting families looking for value and a memorable experiences.”
Travelers, who Lode defines as anyone who goes 50 miles one way from their home, want something different and unique.
“They want to relax and enjoy nature and beauty,” she said. “They want it to be kid-friendly with a variety of choices. They want their travel to be educational.”
Iowa travelers and travelers from surrounding states are interested in food and drink, scenic byways, history, outdoors and parks, shopping, festivals, events, agriculture and sports.
Lode said Guthrie Center needs to share what is going on in their community and let travelers know what it has to offer.
“We don’t know what’s happening in Iowa and we can’t talk about what’s happening in Iowa if we don’t know what’s happening,” she said. “We want to know about that anniversary or that grand opening, or that new store that is really great. That new tenderloin or hot fudge sundae that is special in some way - that’s the kind of information we share everyday in our media relations work. If you don’t tell us, we can’t take your message any farther.”
In her presentation, Phillips continued to point out the importance of tourism.
“It affects all of us so we need to think of it as a way to draw people here,” she said.
Impressed with Guthrie Center, Phillips said the community should be commended.
“When I drove through your downtown, I was very impressed with the cleanliness - your plants, your storefronts,” she said.
You need to promote Guthrie Center and we want to help you, Phillips said.
“If you live in Wyoming, are you going to Google Guthrie Center?,” she asked. “They will Google the state and then find you. You need to put together a tourism committee and you need a whole community working on this. You have something to sell here in Guthrie Center, we’ll do whatever we can do to help you.”
Main Street Guthrie Center Director Julie Bailey, who has been attending state-wide meetings on tourism, thanked both Lode and Phillips for their ideas.
“This has been wonderful,” Bailey said. “We need to do something to jump start tourism efforts in Guthrie Center. It’s a community-wide effort that is needed.”
Courtesy of Ashley Schable, Guthrie Center Times, 6/17/15.