- The museum greeted 33,000 visitors last year, a record.
- 35 percent of those visitors came from other countries, and nearly half of those from Europe.
- Visitors have come from every continent except Antarctica.
- Smith says visitors associate the American experience with Route 66 for five reasons: nostalgia, “Grapes of Wrath,” pop-culture icons, ultra-friendly people, and the highway being an open road that symbolizes small towns and freedom.
The report’s data didn’t surprise me much, but it’s good to see my suspicions confirmed.
Two observations: Although attendance is good at the museum, it averages to 100 people a day. It obviously can increase.
Second, Route 66 needs to figure out how to increase the proportion of Americans traveling the road. Strangely enough, the United States’ own citizens appear to have much less of an appreciation of Route 66 than foreigners.
And it’s not an easy sell. Route 66 zigs and zags from four-lane roads to primitive gravel paths. It goes from vibrant cities to ghost towns, from prospering businesses to deserted ruins. Old Route 66 can prove to be a jolting experience, but rewards the patient and open-minded. Take Chris and Beth Fenwick’s blog, who are still traveling the road now:
We can totally see why so many people are drawn to this road and want to return again and again. Its kind of werid and magical but you get on that old concrete and you settle back into yourseat and you just feel comfortable. Really laid back and comfortable.
Once you figure out how to sell that experience to Americans, you’ll elevate Route 66 from being a cottage industry.