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Taking stock

Tourism consultant Brooks
studies Switzerland County

Brooks’ report,
recommendations due in November

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(November 2008) – In June, business owners in Switzerland County may have noticed a pair of strangers in town who seemed to linger for awhile and ask a lot of questions. As it turned out, it’s not quite as suspicious as it sounds.

Roger Brooks

Roger Brooks

On Sept. 24 at a public meeting, Seattle-based tourism consultant Roger Brooks, of Destination Development Group, gave a presentation about marketing efforts in the community that he surveyed during a 2 1/2 day assessment of the southern Indiana community. Brooks, who has surveyed more than 400 communities throughout the nation, has worked in the tourism and resort development industry for more than 20 years. His expertise in the industry has led to hundreds of success stories. He is well-known for his step-by-step instructions in helping communities build tourism development programs.
He and Destination Development’s Monica Dixon “secret shopped” in Switzerland County in June. Their full report, with recommendations, will be finalized and presented to the community by mid-November, officials said.
Switzerland County was one of 11 Indiana communities that received $5,000 from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development to help cover the cost of Brooks’ assessment.
Each community will participate in a community assessment program designed to help improve tourism and economic development. The program helps communities identify and implement ways to increase tourism marketing for future economic success.
“We’ve been doing a lot of projects in our community, said Switzerland County Tourism’s Executive Director David Attaway. “Sometimes, an outsider’s perspective on things gives a new edge or helps refocus attention on issues that need to be addressed.”
Martha Bladen, co-owner of the unique shop The Bizarre Ladies, said the pair came to her shop. “I felt it was informative to look at our business community through outside eyes,” she said. “Brooks gave great examples of both positives and negatives he found throughout the community. I thought the experience was a benefit.”
Bladen is also the director of the Switzerland County Historical Museum, which Brooks visited. “He told me the stories I present with each item in the museum help it to stand out from the average museum that simply displays items,” she said.
Attaway said during the initial presentation of his findings, Brooks seemed to have an overall positive impression about the town. “He gave a glowing review of tourism services at Belterra Casino Resort and Spa.” Brooks also suggested that downtown Vevay, Ind., may want to look into pull-in parking along its thoroughfares.
Switzerland County Tourism Events Coordinator Natasha Turner said Brooks presented a brief overview of a few things. “He said we have the basic bones; we need to grow from there.” One improvement Brooks suggested was to get rid of portable signs.
Brooks spent nearly a week in Madison, Ind., in early April to critique the town from an outsider’s perspective. He has also been contracted by the city to help design a logo and brand for Madison.

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