Interesting data from the Clinton museum

The Daily Oklahoman today posted an article about a report from the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton. The museum and curator Pat Smith provided fascinating data I’d never seen before:

  • 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.

2 thoughts on “Interesting data from the Clinton museum

  1. ” Strangely enough, the United States’ own citizens appear to have much less of an appreciation of Route 66 than foreigners.”

    I’ve noticed that. Even right here in Oklahoma City, I’ve met many people who have no idea about Route 66. They go see places a thousand miles away, take Carribean Cruises, etc. But, don’t know about Route 66.

  2. As the owner of “66-to-Cali” on the Santa Monica Pier, I’d agree that our most fervent visitors are from countries other than the United States. However, my whole goal with opening the first shop ever on the pier was to increase the exposure of Route 66 to the nearly 4 million people who visit there each year, the majority of them Americans. Since I bought and restored the “End of the Trail” sign to the pier last fall after 50 years away, I now watch countless people taking their picture in front of it every day. I also listen as younger Americans ask their older parents, grandparents, and even me, “What’s Route 66?” and we all get the opportunity to tell them, most in less words than I generally use. We are creating an awareness at “66-to-Cali,” and by promoting Route 66 as “the original road trip,” we’re creating an intrigue in these younger kids who love road trips so much. If I can bait them into simply taking a three day weekend to travel a bit of it, I believe over the next 15 years, I can also increase the number of them that decide to travel the whole thing. We promote every business I’ve ever visited over the past 25 years, in an effort to keep everyone working and doing what they do best…promoting the kindness, generosity, faith, and patriotism that always marked this country in its better days. I believe Route 66 is still the key to knowing what it truly is to be an American. If we can promote it to these kids in ways that speaks their language, they’ll soon understand what it means too. And then they’ll be able to better live it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.