Art Callaham: 'Come and see' or 'come and do?'

March 11, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

“Come and see” versus “come and do”— two different approaches to fostering the visitor trade in Washington County.  Two approaches that, in terms of dollars and cents (or is that sense), have different economic outcomes. So, what does that mean?

A simple illustration answers that very basic question. You don’t go “to see Disney World;” you go “to do Disney World.” Seeing something is just a passive action while doing something is active and speaks to a destination not just a vista.

I remember a trip to Ireland several years ago. We went to see the “Book of Kells” — ho hum, boring. But when we went to “kiss the Blarney Stone,” that took some doing. My back has yet to straighten out after that backwards bend. Seldom do I tell friends to go to see the Book of Kells when they are in Ireland, but I always tell them to make sure they kiss the stone.

Point one: Memories are, more often than not, associated with doing rather than seeing. 

Sure, I remember seeing the whales jump out of the water on Maui's Kapalua Bay while I was playing golf on the Bay Course at the Kapalua Resort. How many were there, what color they were, and how high they jumped, I don’t remember. It’s just a faded memory.

But, I’ll never forget, and will always want to return to duplicate, the 80-yard chip-in for birdie on No. 6.

Point two: Those things we do are etched in our minds forever, while things we see often fade, like photos, over the years.

Point three: Doing generally costs a little more than just seeing.

Crossing into Washington County on Interstate 70 on a clear evening and seeing the beauty and majesty of the valley spreading below South Mountain doesn’t cost the visitor a penny. Catching a Suns game at Municipal Stadium costs $5 for the ticket, an additional “fiver” for a drink and a dog, plus $8 dollars for a hat and, if the game goes late, maybe 60 bucks for a night in a local hotel. That’s somewhere between $15 and $75 per person in local business revenue for doing a game and not just seeing a sight.

Point four: Everywhere wants to be an attraction. Every Friday and Saturday night (and most other nights), how many people do you know who go to the Carroll Creek section of downtown Frederick to see the creek’s gently flowing water cascade along the reinforced concrete banks? None? I thought so. 

Many, however, go to downtown Frederick for the nightlife, the shopping, the theater and the restaurants. Downtown Frederick has become an attraction or, if you will, a destination. And it’s all about doing not seeing.

So, there are four points about the ethos of visitors. What does it all mean for Washington County? In my opinion, as a community, we are more interested in visitors “seeing” than we are in visitors “doing.” Other than shopping, we are not an attraction, nor are we a destination.

If I am right in my opinion, then how do we evolve from seeing to doing? Let me suggest bike trails throughout the county, lighted softball fields, a new multiuse sports facility, expanded theater, dormitories for the University System of Maryland, more wineries, a convention center, an expanded airport, improved and accessible bio-tech industrial park, and I could go on and on.

How do these suggestions help? Bike trails attract bikers, and the health kick is a big-ticket item for Americans today. Restaurants and health stores flourish, and bike sales and repair shops spring up. Bike trails promote a new industry.

Lighted softball fields spawn tournaments; and tournaments spawn hotel room rentals, which spawn restaurant meals and equipment sales. A multiuse sports facility might be used for more than the 70 games currently played by minor league baseball. Let’s say, conservatively, 25 more days of use at 500 tickets per use — that’s a 10 percent increase in local revenues, even if the cost of the ticket is the same as the cost of a ticket to a baseball game.

I could go on, but the summary point is clear. Reinventing Washington County as a destination or attraction means economic growth for our community. None of my suggestions can come to fruition tomorrow, but if it takes a 20-year effort and we don’t start today with a plan, then it will always take 20 years.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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