Historical Cape gets emphasis for future tourism

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Cape Girardeau plans to tell tales to convince visitors to take in its history and do more than stop to shop.

The goal: getting people to see the sights and stay in Cape Girardeau longer, pumping more money into the local economy.

Convention and Visitors Bureau officials unveiled a new marketing logo Tuesday that depicts the sun rising over the Mississippi River and the slogan "where the river turns a thousand tales."

The new marketing plan -- developed with the help of a $42,000 city-funded study done by Northstar Destination Strategies of Nashville, Tenn. -- found Cape Girardeau's biggest asset is the Mississippi River.

The city has touted its river-city status before, but unlike past slogans such as "city of roses on the Mississippi River," the new theme focuses on the community's history, chamber president John Mehner said. The chamber operates the CVB under a contract with the city.

At a news conference at the chamber office, CVB director Chuck Martin highlighted parts of Cape Girardeau's history that might be used in tourism:

n evangelist Billy Sunday's visits;

n the first long-distance telephone call west of the Mississippi River;

n the forced evacuation of the Cherokee Indians along the Trail of Tears and the Civil War;

n Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was stationed in Cape Girardeau when he assumed command of Union troops on the Mississippi in 1861.

He said the public wrongly perceived the marketing study as "a coloring contest." He said it involved more than just a slogan. It included information profiling who visits Cape Girardeau and why.

People visit Cape Girardeau to shop, as a stop on their way to another destination and on river cruises, the study found.

About 20 percent of Cape Girardeau's visitors come from the St. Louis area. That's the largest single category of visitors, the study said. Visitors from the Paducah, Ky., area rank second, accounting for 13 percent of Cape Girardeau's tourists.

Martin said pass-through visitors found Cape Girardeau to be an interesting city and wanted to do more than shop and dine out, but had difficulty making their way downtown from Interstate 55.

River cruise visitors enjoyed walking around downtown but were disappointed to find attractions weren't open, the study found.

Martin said many visitors to Cape Girardeau's downtown didn't realize they could go beyond the floodwall to view the river.

"The overall perception of Cape Girardeau is that it is a very pleasant city, but that there is not much to do," he said.

Lack of marketing, insufficient attractions and poor roads were called impediments to tourism.

Cape Girardeau would draw more visitors if it had a recreational lake, an east-west highway and more entertainment, according to a survey of community leaders that was done as part of the overall study.

A task force of volunteers will analyze the marketing study during the next few months to decide how to implement some of Northstar's ideas, Martin said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

THE NEXT STEP

A task force for the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau is charged with initiating ideas on promoting Cape Girardeau based on a Nashville, Tenn., firm's marketing research. The board consists of the following volunteers:

Quantella Anderson

Tim Blattner

Evelyn Boardman

Kathie Brennan

Doc Cain

Bill Kiel

John Mehner

Joel Neikirk

Earl Norman

David Ross

Loretta Schneider

Chuck Stotz

Steve Taylor

Marsha Toll

Greg Williams

John Wyman

SOURCE: Convention and Visitors Bureau

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