A few weeks ago noted Route 66 author Jim Hinckley asked "What are your thoughts about the future of Route 66?", on his blog. Of course Hinckley asked this question rhetorically mainly to lay out some interesting facts about 2013 tourism and planning events taking place for next year. But, this question has stuck with me over the last few weeks and I thought I would take the time to examine the question and answer it here.
Over the past decade many on and/or with an interest in Route 66 have opened their hearts and doors to the influx of international travelers. Now don't get me wrong I don't have an issue with this at all. As a matter of fact there is something heartwarming and that makes you proud that one of the biggest symbols of freedom in the world is Route 66, and people come from everywhere to experience it. At the same time though I can't help but feel that the Route 66 community hasn't really thought the international tourism concept out, and I am afraid it may come back to bite them in the near future.
You see international tourism is up becuase the Dollar is down. Without breaking out my international banking textbook from college, here is how I can explain what that means. An international traveler can get more Dollars for their form of currency. Let's use British Pounds for example, for one British Pound a traveler from the UK can get a $1.75 (+/-). So they can buy more for less meaning an American vacation is a great bargain.
This is all well and fine, but I think many overlook the fact that there are a lot of factors that can quickly change this situation. I mean with our economy the way it is I'm sure we all have our doubts whether or not our Dollar could ever again become an international powerhouse, but it can happen. So the question then remains if the Dollar should climb in value internationally, what happens to the pool of international tourist? Well to be honest that pool drys up as each currency loses value against the Dollar.
For the Route 66 community which has almost become dependent on international tourism over the past decade this would be a disaster. But, I'm here to help and provide my ideas as to how the Route 66 community can take the potential downturn in international tourism in stride.
What's my blog about? Route 66 for families, and this is an area the Route 66 community hasn't bothered to take seriously. The Route 66 community has a domestic audience that has heard of Route 66, but is unaware of its relevance. This isn't becuase Americans are ignorant of there own history, but becuase the importance of Route 66 isn't exactly something taught in history class or put on the High School civics exam. Route 66 in the minds of most Americans is a small niche of our history, but considering it lacks the relevance of things like the Civil War, or various presidents it gets pushed off to being Americana for fun rather then for history. It's also hard for American who are used to monuments and parks all being in a certain area, to imagine a monument of history being a neary 2500 mile long stretch of highway, that is still alive in most areas.
What the Route 66 community needs to do is take the giant gift wrapped with a big red bow given to it by Disney-Pixar in 2006 and known as Cars and use it to really capture the minds a hearts of kids and their parents. Then the community needs to educate from there presenting itself in family friendly chucks. They need to let families know they don't have to travel the whole route, but get a feeling for it here and there.
The Illinois Tourism Board for example is using this approach. Illinois is breaking Route 66 down into family friendly portions, and even presenting ideas for family activities along the way. Imagine if all of Route 66 did this and did it in an advertising campaign before the start of summer the same way individual states and other tourist attractions do.
So once again Route 66 community look to your own country and look to families wishing to experience Route 66 and the old fashion road trip for your future.