Marketing efforts should stick to the truth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

The subject of tourism in Suffolk has received enough attention and free publicity from those pro and con spending money for a tourism director and housing for same.

I have panned it enough, others are lining up on both sides of the issue and I’m getting bored with the subject. We don’t need a tourist bureau near as much as we need an entrepreneur who has sense enough to capitalize on all that has been done by those who have pointed out the many things to see and do in Suffolk. Hear me, Council.

Someone will wake up soon, like &uot;Go With Gaynelle,&uot; or &uot;Sunshine Tours,&uot; and get themselves a bus and a license to haul tourists around to see all the things to see in Suffolk. Provide a place to park their cars, make it an all day tour with a stop for an arranged lunch, and have them back at their cars in time for them to find a restaurant in town to their liking. If they want to spend the night that’s their business.

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Anyone with any marketing skill can come up with a brochure highlighting the stops. No walking necessary. No space here to list the proper order of places of interest but early on they can head out to the Dismal then back in town for Riddick’s Folly, etc. Provide customers with pit stops, and a shot at souvenirs in gift shops. All it takes is a little imagination and someone, maybe you, will get cracking and make a buck. Maybe Lynette.

The point is, do we need at this point, a tourist bureau? Surely we don’t need her or her staff ferrying people around and arranging busloads to do this and that. The city can’t net a dime that way. If there really is that much to see and do in Suffolk then some local businessman should put it together before some &uot;outsider&uot; sneaks in with the idea to make a buck. And if there is NOT that much to see and do in Suffolk our tourist bureau is wasting our tax dollars and Council knows it.

The so-called Historical District is too far from both the Hylton and the downtown business district. But a legitimate licensed tour bus might work.

Forget lengthy walking tours, most people with the time and money to travel aren’t doing it for the exercise and many would need physical help. Believe me, my bride and I have covered a good bit of the earth and we want a bus driver to do our walking and a tour director to do our thinking. We can handle stuff like ordering meals from a menu.

No matter where one goes nowadays the weather is usually too hot and a nearby air-conditioned bus is paradise. It’s a good idea to have a toilet in the back and never travel with a cigar smoker even if he isn’t smoking. You guess why.

For the short runs around town an entrepreneur could rent brightly colored wheel chairs, bicycles, twin bikes, or golf carts and provide a map of the easy to get to highlights. Eventually Suffolk drivers would learn to watch out for them and a city ordinance could provide tourists with the right of way. Soon after that locals will get the idea that visitors can be a pain.

But it is unlikely Suffolk will develop any touristy areas the locals must avoid until September. And unruly punks will go elsewhere.

Traveling the highways you can easily be mislead into stopping at some tourist trap that advertises by fancy billboard. I’m not referring to that junk pile they call South of the Border. I’ve fallen for signs many a time. Once in Florida we pulled into a road by a sign that said, &uot;Indian Village and Alligator Wrestling. The price seemed right for all that the sign indicated we would see. Yup, you guessed it, two fat little barefoot girls dancing pathetically in the dirt around a record player with chicken feathers stuck in their hair.

The show concluded with a dirty man in a soiled undershirt, so fat the girls looked starved, carrying an alligator I could have eaten. That reptile didn’t have a chance as fatso writhed around in the dirt for a few minutes and then a crescendo of blaring noise from the record player indicated we had been had. Live and don’t learn.

It is my hope Suffolk will never be guilty of that kind of fraud. I hope our advertising will stick to the truth. No dressing up, no embellishment, no bull, just the facts ma’am.

Maybe someone ought to take another look at our tourist brochure describing the 33 things to see and do in Suffolk.

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist.