It was high-drama last night during the public meeting of the Committee of the Whole on the meals/lodging surcharge. It was a shame that PortMedia did not feel it necessary to tape this event. I think, though charged with much emotion, the arguments back and forth would have really given the general citizenry a good pro and con case for each position. Unfortunately, it got a little nutty at times and the school-worshippers (all tax revenue must end up in the schools) tried to interject their madness. Regardless, it would have made good cinema and beat any canned drama from Hollywood!
While all this was going on, a perfectly reasonable question was put out.
Why is it for decades, the Chamber has never bothered to seriously promote Newburyport as a destination site?
Karen Battles brought out an interesting need. We need visitors in the shoulder seasons and in the late fall, early spring and of course the winter months.
Councilor Ed Cameron brought up the fact that a place like Rockport has some 50 plus B&B’s, hotels and motels; but Newburyport has barely six.
The consensus is that Newburyport desperately needs the multi-day visitor and a steady inflow of guests if nothing else to stabilize and firm up our local economy.
Cities that enjoy such a situation were mentioned such as Portsmouth and Salem. They have special semi-public organizations like Destination Salem that do nothing else but encourage visitors to come.
But this is the crux of the matter: We still need to deal with Whittier’s Curse. It fuels the mysterious lack of promotion by the Chamber. And it keeps us from the International and National eye.
Newburyport is so beautiful and so packed with activities, events and significant sites; we should have 30 to 40 lodging choices inside the city limits! And each of those business will generate income for the city just in property taxes! Statistically, 14% of those visitors come back to invest and live in Newburyport and many return to start businesses benefiting us all with rock-solid property values and a steady tax base.
But no one is going to develop a business plan and invest money to open those places when visitors don’t know we exist.
I call it the Kansas Phenomena. Ask someone in Kansas the name of Salem and they think witches and merchant ships; mention Portsmouth and they think classic New England port and the Navy. Ask about Gloucester and they think Captains Courageous and the fishing fleet. Ask them what they think of New England and they will mention Cape Cod and Vermont villages and Maine’s rocky coast and Boston’s Patriotic past.
They will picture in their minds, towns and cities that look like Newburyport but the name will never cross their mind or be spoken. Say ‘Newburyport’ and the faces go blank.
If we conquer the imagination of mid-America, we will have conquered the World.
That should be our goal. It should be the goal of Around Newburyport. It should be the goal of Destination Newburyport.
Let’s beat the curse!