Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, May 12, 2017

US National Tourism Week: a perspective from New Zealand

My NZ e-correspondent comments on the recent blog post on DC tourism issues:

Your recent entry on your website refers to:
The lack of information center will be DCs biggest downfall for tourism , given the large number of sights and attractions are in the region.
New Zealand i-site in Fiordland.

Are US tourist information centers under any sort of governing body? All licensed tourist info centres in NZ are under the "i - site "umbrella," which is a bit like KOA branding of campsites . There is a set level of standards to be maintained

i - sites can book domestic travel anywhere in NZ by any mode ( air , bus , ferry ) has information on ALL types of accommodation in their region -- budget backpackers to ultra luxury, and communicate with each other to make bookings in other parts of NZ .

Some of the better i-sites include internet access, cafes , DoC information (the Dept. of Conservation administers National Parks and wildlife conservation), sells topo maps and videos, sells postage stamps, has a gift shop with quality souvenirs ..... all in a one stop shop.  Even some of the smaller towns in NZ ( with population of 3,000) have good i--sites -- it's not just the big players.

My response:
wrt info centers, here we're bigger country-wise and because conservatives for decades don't like funding federal "economic development," tourism promotion is primarily a state activity. That being said, most states do a very good job supporting "welcome" or visitors centers across their states, although they may or may not do accommodations reservations.

DC is an exception for a major city in that it does such a poor job, and this is complemented by the very parochial approach of the federal agencies. And DC extends its poor job by not extending information to area visitors centers located outside of the city but in the metropolitan area.

I missed out once on buying ephemera off ebay when there was a c. 1930s or 1940s photo of a federal "information center" in DC, but somehow I missed the deadline to bid and could never find another one.  I need to track it down.

With the federal agencies, fwiw, the problem isn't limited to DC.  It's the same for federal parks and lands and rec. centers across the country. They won't provide "local" information on site. Yet, they do economic impact studies every year about the economic impact of these facilities on local economies. It would be much greater if they would bend on this particular element.

the poor job of NPS marketing is why Utah stepped in to do its own campaign. It's so successful that they are overwhelming the facilities...
On what we might call "public diplomacy" and projecting the image of the US to "foreigners":

The following is a NZ perspective, which may or may not be widely known ( I suspect not)) by Americans.

Tourism -- People who are transiting through the US, but are not leaving the airports, have to pay for a visa to do so.  If I am flying from NZ to LAX, transferring on to another flight to London UK, will only be in the transfer terminal in LAX for an hour or two, I have to pay for a visa.

This is dumb !! As I will not be processed into the US by ICE , I don't understand why I need a visa to do so. Apart from places in Middle East, notably Saudi Arabia  there is no other country where I need a transit visa.

Who says?  (ABC LA photo.)

Entry conditions into US are a lot stricter, and more cumbersome. The US Embassy and Consulates do NOT handle visa applications. It is done by paying a toll call (regardless where one is phoning from in NZ).

I don't know what it is like now, but the US immigration that I struck were some of the most obnoxious folk I ever came across in the US . For starters it would help if they spoke slowly and clearly to us -- even those of us who speak English sometimes find a Southern Drawl a little hard to follow ...

And uniformed men waving guns in the air, herding us round like a bunch of sheep in the arrivals hall, is not exactly a friendly welcome. If these folk REALLY need guns (how often are they used?) they could be a little more discreet about it.

Twitter photo, Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

There are 2 lines for queuing; One marked "US Citizens" , and the other marked "Aliens" Although I am not a US citizen, I am NOT an alien. ET might be an alien, but the rest of us are "foreign citizens or "visitors to the US."

And with Donald Trump as your country's leader, goodness knows what he will do to make entry to the US harder for those of us who wish to visit.

Tipping.  Although some countries have a tipping culture, this is abhorrent to NZ or Australian folk, unless the service provided was (1) actually wanted, and (2) greater than expectations.

Porters who automatically take my luggage and put it into the trunk of a cab , then expect me to pay them to do what I would have done myself is asking for an argument from me.  American porters should ASK customers if they need their services, not just help themselves.

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At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, The US's transit visa setup is annoying, but I don't see how it impacts tourism since those people transiting elsewhere won't be entering the US anyway. It's also a system that's not going to change. The US doesn't want to even give a potential terrorist the chance of coming to the US without papers. That's why they're so eager to set up preclearance at additional airports, so they can identify people they don't want to enter the country before they even reach US soil.

As far as the attitude of immigration officers, well... nobody joins Customs and Border Patrol for the customer service. They want to make drug busts, not welcome people to the country.

None of this is good, but it's also not going to change,

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

yep. my point about this -- which I forgot to insert into the post -- is that customs people are hired to "enforce" the law, not interpret it. That if we thought of these people in terms of what we might call their ambassadorial functions, we'd make hires based on a different skill set.


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