expert cites strategies
for historic sites to improve visitation
(December 2004) In search of new strategies
for growth among the areas heritage sites, members of the newly
formed Madison Area Heritage Sites Roundtable on Nov. 8 met with Brenda
Myers, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Indiana
Myers cited several challenges facing operators of heritage
sites. For Madison, a major challenge is overcoming the misconception
held by many travelers that it is difficult to get to Madison, so they
go some place where the surroundings are more familiar.
She cited Madisons 62 percent return visitation rate as a plus.
What they need to do is get the word out to the people who are already
visiting and living in the area.
In the groups analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats, they reached some conclusions. The group recognized the
need to become attractive to the younger market and the need to attract
people who already visit the area but who may not visit the historic
The majority of visitors and contributors to the areas historical
sites are of the baby boomer generation. The people in the area who
are in their 20s and 30s make up an untapped market. For a historical
site operator, appealing to this crowd is a challenge in itself, especially
when competing with the Internet.
Myers said it is important to make people see that they can get the
information and learn about something anywhere, but that they can only
experience it at the actual site.
Myers also discussed the idea of better collaboration with area schools
as a possibility for increasing interest among young people. Every level
of education could interact with historic sites, whether it is field
trips for elementary aged children or volunteer opportunities for high
school and college aged students. There are a number of ways to involve
people beyond the idea of visiting solely to learn history.
In order to attract people already visiting the area to the sites, Myers
said, the first thing to do is raise awareness. Decorative and unique
signage would be one possibility. Another might be to collaborate with
bed and breakfasts, which by trade see a number of repeat visitors.
The B&Bs often provide visitors with ideas for things to do around
town. They present a wonderful opportunity to get the word out about
the historic sites, she said.
A combination ticket for admission to the different sites is an idea
that has been discussed for a while now, and Myers could not stress
enough how much benefit something of the sort would provide. She made
clear, however, her feeling that existence of the ticket alone would
not help, but that members of the community, such as shop owners, hotels,
B&Bs and the general public must be made aware and help promote
the tickets. People, after all, must know about the tickets in order
to purchase them, and that requires good marketing efforts. People are
often unaware that things change at museums and historic sites, making
them worthwhile to re-visit.
Link Ludington, curator at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, pointed
out the common misconception that once you visit a site, there is no
reason to go see it again. There are often new exhibits, changing scenery
and different discoveries that make a place unique each time a visitor
comes. He said that he often sees returning guests surprised to see
that something has changed since their last visit.
Increasing visitation to the historic sites will continue to be a challenge
for this area, but discussions such as the one led by Myers are key
to generating ideas and continuing in the right direction. Myers believes
that this area is on the right track. Sometimes the most difficult
part is just getting everyone to the table for collaboration,
The Madison Area Heritage Sites Roundtable plans to continue meeting
monthly to foster communication among the operators. These include Historic
Madison Inc., Lanier Mansion, Eleutherian College and the Jefferson
County Historical Society.
Back to December 2004