The Los Angeles Times this week posted an interesting feature about Wigwam Motel operator Kumar Patel, who is trying to attract a younger and more diverse group of customers to ensure Route 66’s survival.
Route 66’s future demographic problems are self-evident: about 97 percent of its travelers are white, with a median age of 55.
I encourage you to read the whole thing, but a few tidbits stood out:
- The Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California, had to save up money for years before it could renovate its swimming pool and other improvements.
- Kevin Hansel, a former president of the California Route 66 Association, has become caretaker for Roy’s in Amboy, Calif. The Roy’s complex wants to reopen the restaurant and motel cabins there, but not before a reliable source of water is found.
- Patel has hosted hip-hop festivals, wacky Christmas parties and other events at the Wigwam — including a Pow Wow next month — in an effort to attract a younger and hip clientele.
- Patel has earned a lot of respect from the older crowd on Route 66 for his outreach efforts and has grown attached to the culture of a historic highway that he initially didn’t understand. ” … He’s grown attached to the road, and sees himself as more than just a motel operator. Patel has become a curator of the Route 66 legend, a proud member of its cast of characters.”
(Image of the Wigwam Motel of San Benardino, California, by Pete Zarria via Flickr)