I recently visited a close friend who had relocated from the Rochester, NY area to the Cleveland, OH area. It was my first trip to Cleveland and my friend was happy to play tour guide with the big venues being the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Progressive Field. I have to admit that prior to this trip, I pictured Cleveland to be the run-down, rust-belt, dirty, “mistake on the lake,” river-on-fire city that I recall hearing about decades ago. I couldn’t have been more wrong as I found Cleveland to be a fun, clean, friendly and vibrant city.
While in Cleveland, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle ran a topical blog post. The blogger had relocated to Rochester and had some misperceptions about Rochester (as well as Cleveland). The timing of her blog post couldn’t have been more perfect and my relocated friend found a lot of truth in her post.
I grew up in a small town in northeastern New Jersey. Unless you’re from that part of the country, your perception is likely tied to one or more of these television shows: The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Cake Boss and/or Jerseylicious. Or, perhaps you’ve driven the NJ Turnpike and you think that the entire state consists of swampland, rest stops named after famous people and smelly refineries. I can assure you the vast majority of the state is much nicer than that. Trust me.
So that got me thinking about marketers in the tourism industry. Besides touting the many positives of a given area, how much of their efforts are spent countering misconceptions? I recently chatted with my friend Carol White Llewellyn, who is a travel and tourism promotion entrepreneur for the Finger Lakes region of NY.
According to Carol, the Rochester area has two big misconceptions. “The first is that Rochester and this region does not get many tourists. In 2010, in spite of a still-down economy, Rochester alone got $1.3 billion in tourism revenue (http://www.actrochester.org/Indicator/Default.aspx?id=1&indicator=11). Tourism is huge here, especially because of the growth of the wine and food/restaurant locavore movements. Various communities have also been listed in the “Top 10″ as must-see’s by a variety of travel press. The other misconception among locals is that there is nothing to do here. In fact, about the only thing we’re missing that’s found elsewhere in the country is deserts and tornadoes.”
Carol goes on to say, “In truth, I don’t spend a lot of time correcting misconceptions. I just keep blogging and talking about all the wonders of the region. I think sometimes, like most communities, we simply don’t recognize/appreciate/take advantage of the amazing wonders we have in our own back yard!”
As with most things in life, you need to take what you hear/see/read with a grain of salt. Take the time to do some investigating. If you don’t, you might incorrectly believe the misconceptions that are everywhere.