Route 66 ho-hum?


Michael DelGiorno expressed his boredom Monday morning during our weekly chat, as I tried to explain the part of the Route 66 festival that most excited me as an old highway enthusiast. I can't imagine why he doesn't find mid-60s Borden's Cafeteria postcards exciting.

Tulsa will likely never be a mainstream tourist destination. We will likely never make the list of 1000 places to visit before you die. But that doesn't mean we can't make some money from the tourist trade.

The key is niche marketing. There are aspects of the history and culture of Tulsa and the surrounding region that appeal to market segments that are narrow but full of people passionate about their special (not to say peculiar) interests.

Route 66 is one of those niche markets, probably one of the broader niches, as evidenced by websites about the topic in Portugese, German, French, Finnish, Swedish.

This German page describes Route 66 as "Die legendärste Straße Amerikas - Mythos der unendlichen Freiheit" and warns that it's only for absolute "Amerikafreaks." (Love those German compound nouns.)

Beyond Route 66, Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma can appeal to people interested in cowboys and Indians (and art inspired by them), the Charismatic movement (ORU and Rhema), oil exploration and the roughnecks and boom towns and overnight millionaires of oil's heyday. There are even severe weather aficionados who dream of visiting Oklahoma and chasing a storm. I met a German some years ago, in a woolen shop in Ardara, Ireland, who wanted to do just that.

To exploit these niches, however, Tulsans (and mainly those who have been paid handsomely to sell Tulsa to the rest of the world) have to stop being embarrassed by what makes us different. It does us no good for our tourist brochures to focus on amenities (like the ballet, the opera, and upscale shopping) which are wonderful for those who live here but don't really set us apart from other cities.

Meanwhile, thanks to Private Eye's "Funny Old World" column, we learn that looking for that edge in the competition for the tourist dollar is a concern the world over. Councilors in the Polish seaside resort of Ustka believe that an uplifting program of crest enlargement holds the key to attracting visitors. Note that the town's mayor carefully chooses his words to avoid giving offense to any mermaids amongst his constituents.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 17, 2004 12:38 AM.

Restaurants in the sky was the previous entry in this blog.

Pair of sixes paradox is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]