With jobs disappearing and Americans still shaken by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, tourism has dropped off sharply around the nation, including Missouri.
St. Louis lost about 200 meetings, the Mississippi Queen riverboat cruise canceled its final stop along the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau and numerous other events were dropped throughout the state.
Missourians are being asked to "go out and shop, spend money at home, and see your great state," said Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell and Missouri Tourism Commission chairman Louis Hamilton Tuesday. The two were making stops at St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo., to encourage a stay-at-home focus.
But Cape Girardeau has some major events scheduled that should bring in tourism dollars.
"We have the big Baptist convention in Cape Girardeau this week," said Terri Clark-Bauer, director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau. "And we're looking into attractions which will encourage visitors to the area."
Arts and crafts
One of the biggest draws on next month's schedule is the annual arts and crafts weekend Nov. 17 and 18.
"Thousands of people come into the area looking for unique Christmas gifts that will be displayed in five area buildings," said Clark-Bauer.
These include the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri's Christmas Arts and Crafts Bazaar at the Show Me Center and the annual Crafts, Gifts and Collectibles Show at the Bavarian Halle in Fruitland, Mo. During the same weekend, there are crafts displayed at the National Guard Armory, A.C. Brase Arena Building and the Osage Community Centre.
Attendance estimates for the three annual arts and crafts shows range from 3,000 at the Bavarian Halle to 5,000-6,000 at the Holiday Inn Convention Center and A.C. Brase Arena Building, to 10,000-12,000 at the Show Me Center and Osage Centre.
"The shows are so popular that people start lining up long before they open," Clark-Bauer said. "Last year, six buses from the St. Louis area brought shoppers here for the shows."
"A lot of people don't want to fly right now," she said. "We're looking for things closer to home that visitors may want to see."
The CAYSA annual fall soccer tournament is a big draw Nov. 10-11, and the Holiday of Lights will run from Nov. 21 through the new year at Cape Girardeau County Park. The Christmas of Lights Parade is set for downtown Cape Girardeau the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Clark-Bauer's promotion of "things closer to home" is in line with the Tourism Commission's goals for Missourians.
Tourism is considered the state's third-leading industry. It was second a year ago. More than 200,000 people work in the industry.
Focus has narrowed
In the past, Missouri has tried to attract visitors from a 450-mile radius around the state. The out-of-state efforts continue, but the focus has narrowed to a 300-mile radius, which still includes cities like Chicago, Ill., and Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.
Corporations and associations are being asked to do their part by staying in-state with conventions and meetings.
In an effort to kick-start the tourism industry, the state is spending an extra $500,000 this fall for the "Rediscover Your Missouri" campaign.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.