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By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
New Tourist Director Aaron Smith introduced himself to the joint tourism committee Dec. 19, by stressing that he intends to be visible in the community.
Smith told the combined Tourism Advisory Council and Tourism Tax Commission that he and his wife were closing on a house on Eighth Street.
“I’ll be able to be down in the town a lot and I plan to be,” he said. “I want to start with visibility. And the next thing I want to do is just kind of listen and be around and see what Ste. Gen needs and approach things from that perspective, and talk to shop owners and people on the board and see were you think things need to go.”
Joe Steiger, Ward 3 alderman and liaison to the board of aldermen, asked how his early explorations of Ste. Genevieve had gone.
“It’s been really good,” Smith said. “I think every time I talk to someone I get a different piece of the puzzle and a different piece of the history of Ste. Gen. I think that’s super helpful.”
Smith told the group about his experience of marketing an inn near Death Valley. He also noted that his BA had been in painting and that he has a background in and an appreciation of art.
Ste. Genevieve, he said, is a “finished product.” His goal is to figure out how to draw in visitors who will spend money here, appreciate what the town and county have to offer and then spread the word to like-minded visitors.
“It’s kind of a challenge, but I plan to be here a bunch of years,” Smith said, noting he and his wife are expecting their first child in April.
“We’re excited to raise a child here, the prospects of raising a child in a very safe small town where they can bike around, go to heir friend’s house is really appealing to us. We don’t want to change that.”
Randy McDaniels and Jenna Farrell of McDaniels Marketing, the firm that will craft Ste. Genevieve’s marketing plan, were also at the meeting. McDaniels said he wanted the group’s input on how to sell the town and the county.
The firm has been in business since 1966 and has focused on tourism since 2003.
“We’ve built up a great understanding of how to market destinations like yours,” McDaniels said, “and to move them forward in a way that not only moves the needle on tourism, but also moves the needle on residential growth, new business investment and to try to establish a brand that cannot only attract new people and more foot traffic … You either move forward or you move backwards.”
They currently work in nine states and just began to work with Paducah, Ken.
“You have to replace your talent,” McDaniels said, noting that visitors to events tend to be the ones who decide to move here and open a shop or do volunteer work at one of the historic sites, replacing the aging complement of people now handling those tasks.
He related how increasing tourism and bringing new families into town increases the tax base and allows the city to make various improvements, which helps draw more people in, part of a “wheel.”
He emphasized that he isn’t looking at the immediate future, so much as down the road.
“The long game is where you really win and the city wins, because this city is amazing and its history is so unique,” he said. “It’s one of a kind.”
He asked for the members’ input. The meeting lasted more than another hour as feedback was gathered on goals and challenges.
One of the challenges on the tourism side is a lack of places to stay overnight. For bringing in new families, a lack of available housing is an issue. Economic development, he stressed, is part of the long-term plan, as well as the tourism itself.