By Tim Leeds
Havre is again working to better tap into the tourist trade that brings more than $1 billion in spending to the state every year.
Vicki Munson, project coordinator for Share Your Heritage National Pilot Workshop, came to Havre Friday to meet with community leaders and discuss what Havre can do to increase tourism in the Havre area.
The national Partners in Tourism Share Your Heritage program has awarded the Missoula Cultural Council a grant to hold one of two pilot workshops. It will be in the Missoula Holiday Inn Parkside today through Saturday. The goal of the workshop is to show people, businesses and organizations how they can work together to build "cultural corridors," areas with attractions that can be marketed as a unit to bring tourists to the area.
"Havre It's the People' is a great synopsis of what cultural and heritage tourism is all about," she said, referring to the motto of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.
She said Havre and the Hi-Line have "got lots of stuff" to market to potential visitors.
Travel Montana estimates that tourism will bring more than $1.6 billion in nonresident spending to Montana this year.
Part of Friday's discussion was how to create partnerships in the Havre area to define what the product is and how to market it.
"The primary thing is to create partnerships at the local level to produce pump priming to get the thing going," Mark Martin of the Missoula Cultural Council said in an interview Wednesday.
"The workshop isn't the end of anything. It's really the start," he said.
Another issue at Friday's meeting was updating an inventory of local attractions. Once the attractions are listed, and similar attractions are grouped as a package, the community needs to decide how to market them, Munson said. The important part is getting the community to decide what to do in a grass-roots effort, she said.
"How do we pull these things together," she said. "It's pulling people together from the ground up."
A possibility discussed at the meeting was having some kind of open house on a weekend, where people could stop by at their convenience to discuss marketing the attractions.
Munson said the work of HandMade in America, an organization formed in 1993 to stimulate the economy of western North Carolina, can be an example of how to create tourism corridors. "The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina," a book by HandMade, lists seven self-guided scenic loop tours across 22 counties in North Carolina. The book has 195 listings including attractions like craft studios, galleries, restaurants and historic inns.
Munson said Becky Anderson, executive director of HandMade in America, did a before-and-after study of the area and found a 25 percent improvement in the economy because of the marketing efforts. Anderson is one of the speakers at this weekend's workshop.
But the key is community involvement, said Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We can't market this until everybody's on board," she said.
John Brumley, who administers the Wahkpa Chu'gn bison kill site with his wife, Anna, said the key to making community participation work will be making the end result profitable.
"Volunteers are the mainstay of rural communities," he said, "but if we can build a business where it makes money for someone, then we've got something."
Craig Erickson of Bear Paw Development Corp. suggested trying to come up with a business plan as quickly as possible, once the necessary information is gathered.
"Let's figure out what this costs once we find out what's out there," he said.
On the Net: HandMade in America: www.handmadeinamerica.org
Missoula Cultural Council: www.missoulacultural.org