The Joplin (Mo.) Globe today published a story about how towns in the region are preparing for Route 66 tourism season.
One of the most striking parts of the story came out of Miami, Okla.:
“We’re anticipating this to be a record travel season,” said Amanda Davis, director of the Miami (Okla.) Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re very hopeful.”
Davis said Route 66 is a big draw and a big emphasis for the community.
“It’s a huge part of our market,” she said. “It’s where we target our advertising and marketing. We’re already seeing several Route 66 tour groups come through. It’s a good indicator.” […]
“Our hotel tax is up 30 percent year-to-date,” Davis said. “Route 66 makes a huge impact on those numbers.”
In an email, Davis said the increase in motel tax revenues is due to several factors:
Our sports market has increased. We have multiple motorcycle groups (Route 66) that we are staying overnight. 3 years ago, the CVB started working the ABA & NTA motor coach markets. Those numbers are growing. Another jump is our corporate market.
Davis said the motel tax numbers she provided the newspaper do not include the increase that occurred from deadly and damaging tornado that struck Joplin on May 22.
Miami’s efforts to woo motor-coach tour groups seems especially notable. The tourism bureau of Pontiac, Ill., started doing that several years ago, and has reaped record tourism numbers as well.
According to the Globe, the historic Boots Motel in Carthage, Mo., is reopening to overnight travelers on May 8 for the first time in nearly a decade. The Carthage Convention and Visitors Bureau plans a Travel Rally on that date, with the Boots as one of the focal points.
And 4 Women on the Route in Galena, Kan. — home of the original inspiration to Mater from the 2006 Disney-Pixar film “Cars” — will officially open for the season tomorrow. Even so, the Route 66 diner and souvenir shop was welcoming international travelers last week.
UPDATE 5/1/2012: Today, the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., sees another reason Route 66 tourism probably will rise this year: Billy Connolly.
[H]e’s huuuuge in Britain — in January, he was named the most influential British comedian of all time. His Route 66 TV series, only the latest of several road-trip shows Connolly has done, apparently was a big hit last fall on Brit television.
As a result, communities all along Route 66 are getting ready for an influx of British tourists following in Connolly’s footsteps … er, motorcycle tire marks.
UPDATE2: Ellie Alexander at Pontiac Tourism provided an update of her town’s numbers:
So far this year our group travel is up over 50%, international visitors up 74%. I’m speculating, but with the State of Illinois actively markets Route 66 internationally, I think it is working! Also, the dollar being weaker, more people are able to travel to our great country. I am so excited on days when I spend time in the Route 66 museum. People from all over the world walk through the doors and are literally ecstatic to be here. When there is so much negative talk in our country and all politics going on, it’s so refreshing to meet people who are so fond of America. Perhaps they could teach us all something!