By ERIC X. VICCARO
The Ste. Genevieve Tourism Tax Commission and Tourism Advisory Council had a joint meeting on March 16.
Part of the session became a “turn back the clock” event harkening to 2017 when there was a meeting to discuss a list of future priorities related to tourism.
In an email from Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park Superintendent Chris Collins to Tourism Advisory Council chair Sara Menard, some of those priorities were lined out.
For years, many citizens and tourists have clamored alike for better access to the Mississippi River – and that was the No. 1 priority.
Other priorities include better signage, more overnight lodging and a sidewalks and “travel” plan from St. Mary’s Road and NPS locations to the historic downtown district.
“RTCA (Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program) will be meeting with stakeholders on April 6 for a meet-and-greet, and to explain their technical assistance program,” Collins wrote to Menard.
“I’ve asked them for help with trail/sidewalk planning and way finding,” Collins continued. “There’s going to survey the group to come up with a schedule for subsequent meetings … They are planners, and not funders for projects, but they will likely have ideas for locating and applying for grants.”
Collins wrote the RTCA, a wing of the federal National Park Service, wants to survey the group — and gain a better understanding of needs before “proposing any specifics.”
The National Park Service has begun installed signs pointing people to the historic downtown district, including signs at Exit 150 both northbound and southbound on Interstate-55 and at the intersection of Market and Fourth Street.
Overnight lodging seems to be on the right track, judging by the number of requests to turn houses into airbnb’s at board of aldermen meetings throughout the last year.
River access could very well improve with the recent conveyance of levee property to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
During that 2017 tourism meeting, a permanent hiking trail on the levee was one of the topics discussed.
Other items of highest focus were the creation of a tourism-related mobile application, fixing up the Ste. Genevieve-Modoc Ferry landing location, better maps and placing utilities underground.
There were line items on entrepreneurial opportunities, brainstorming ideas and holiday ideas — including the creation of a possible Christmas village.
During the board of aldermen meeting on March 25, Ste. Genevieve tourism director Toby Carrig provided a report on Welcome Center visitors for the entire year.
Thanks to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, yearly visitations was expectedly down.
“I think we were fortunate with how it all played out through the pandemic,” Carrig said, especially noting how Ste. Genevieve was still able to attract visitors from the St. Louis metro area and Illinois.
Even going against passionate pleas from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) advising against travel to Missouri, there have been plenty of tourists to Ste. Genevieve.
The Welcome Center was under lockdown due to virus concerns from March 17 to June 1.
Then, slowly but surely, numbers began rising with special events such as the Summer Showcase, Fall Colors and Pecan-a-palooza.
From June to November 2020, the Welcome Center had more than 1,000 visitors per month — with a peak in October of 1,569.
Overall, there were 9,614 visitors for 2020 in its entirety, which was a 53.53 percent drop from 20,691 in 2019. A recent peak year for Welcome Center visitors was in 2018 (24,457).