Sunday, August 29, 2010

IDA-HOST

Orofino, Idaho from the Gilbert Grade

Some years ago I participated in the Ida-Host program, a workshop to awaken employers (and others) to the economic impact of tourism on the community. Statistics were presented showing that the longer a tourist stays in the community, the more he spends. If he spends the night, you have vastly increased the amount of money he will leave behind. Tourism dollars improve the over-all economy of the community and that's good for all of us – not just the business owners. I had never thought of that before. I was impressed.

Actually, the people with the greatest opportunity to influence the tourist are front-line employees – clerks, cashiers, etc. – at places like grocery and convenience stores, specialty shops, museums, etc. Unfortunately, these are the workers who are also at the lowest pay grade and mostly disinterested. On the other hand, anyone can do it. Here's an example:

My friend Chris told me about the quilt shop in downtown Orofino, our hometown, and mentioned it would be worth my while to check it out – some different things. "It's called The Wild Hare and it's where the Style Shop used to be." (Does that date us or what?) So, when Hallie was here last week, we turned off Highway 12 and drove across the bridge into Orofino on our way back to the Lewis-Clark Valley. We arrived at the shop at 9:20 so had 10 minutes to wait for the shop to open. (The storekeeper later told us she would have opened if we had knocked. Small towns – so great!) Anyway, Hallie and I walked up one side of the street and down the other while we waited, and as we were contemplating the Mexican Restaurant where Oud's Hardware used to be, a woman walking by, a stranger to us, said, "Best food in town." After a brief exchange with her, she again reiterated – "Best food in town."

Kathy at the Mexican Restaurant
"Great!" said Mike when I told him. "I'll take you there for your birthday dinner." And so that's what we did last night – a first for us to leave the farm for any form of town entertainment. Leaving Nellie in the farmhouse, we headed down the steep and winding narrow Gilbert Grade to Orofino and had dinner at the Mexican Restaurant. We aren't people who rave about food, but we thought our entrees were delicious. Not only was the food good, but we were served promptly and courteously and the price was reasonable. We were impressed by the efficiency of the wait staff – five people working the floor and anticipating the needs of the diners. "Yancey would like this place," said Mike. (And that's because Yancey and family have taken us to Mexican restaurants in Denver.) I was thinking that Hallie and Nick would like it. We agreed we would make the effort to go again and take guests. And all because Chris told me about the quilt shop and a stranger recommended the Mexican Restaurant.

So, our recommendations have far-reaching effects. "Word of mouth" is powerful if we use it. Perhaps it's not so important in metropolitan areas where tourists come knowing what they want to see and do, but it's certainly important in smaller communities where attractions are not so obvious or well-known.

3 comments:

Chris said...

The food on your plate looks wonderful!! Mmmm.

It's so nice that downtown is still thriving there. Amazing, actually. So, what did you think of the Wild Hare?

Do you want to know how really addled I was last night? I didn't even realize it was your birthday. I added a day somewhere and I thought yesterday was the 29th. It's been a busy, busy week. So, happy birthday, a day late!!

Kathy said...

I thought the Wild Hare was great. I bought a 1-yard fabric piece and some needles -- stuff I can use. I will try to support the shop as much as I can. (I'm already trying to support several other shops, you know.)

Well, I really didn't notice you were addled. You sent me a card and I really didn't miss another greeting.

Mike said...

Best Mexican I've ever eaten!