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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Forum needs more than planning
When I read that Langley was forming another committee to look for ways to increase business I was reminded of a Yogi Berra quote, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again.”
It has been said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. This is the same group that has held countless meetings, study groups, focus groups or whatever the buzzword of the day is and all we end up with are more camels.
Where has it gotten Langley or South Whidbey? Clinton businesses that wanted to survive have retreated to Ken’s Korner where the synergy of shared traffic has paid off. Lower Clinton has become a ghost town, the result of several people making a living pushing Clinton as a tourist stop.
It is not that difficult to bring tourists to Langley and Whidbey. After all we live in one of the most beautiful places around and are a short drive for a huge number of people looking for a respite from city life. What is sorely lacking in every group, committee or government entity that has announced “we have a solution” is a long-term strategy that ties many businesses together so all prosper.
Another concept that I have been pushing for years is statistical record gathering and targeted marketing.
Folks, this is Business 101 but seemingly a foreign concept here. I pushed for years for the Port of South Whidbey to demand proof that grant money, tax dollars, was spent to actually bring new business to Whidbey. Two years ago they wrote new rules for grants asking for this data. What happened? Only one group, the Farm Tour, actually gathered such data but the port happily doled out our tax dollars anyway. Understanding and integrating demographic information from every event is not difficult but vital. Sharing this data island-wide is also key to understand who visits, why they come, would they come back and if not, why.
These committee groupies seem happy to see Whidbey as a summer-only destination with no desire to tie in every business together.
Whidbey should and can be a year-round destination for visitors. I believe we need to brand Whidbey as “Whidbey for All Seasons, Where Memories are Made and Traditions are Born.” An island wide strategic plan is simple and in less than two years could double the visitors year round. This would provide jobs and most importantly sales tax revenue to bolster our shaky county budget.
None of this is new and one only needs look at Disneyland and how they approach visitors and the customer experience here. The long ferry lines are a potential down side to visit the island, but simple changes would change a negative to a positive experience. Portable toilets at several locations along the line would be a blessed relief to many. Having entertainers at safe places along the wait lane would make it a fun time for everyone and especially families with children. The ideas and possibilities are endless.
It is time to recruit people with fresh ideas and give them the ability to implement them — not just schedule another meeting, decide who will bring refreshments or form another blue ribbon committee.