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Tallying tourism

Posted July 17, 2013 in Community Featured, Winterset

Here in the Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center, we get many visitors through our door daily.

Some are current Chamber members, some are folks new to the community looking for referrals and information and others are tourists looking for a day of fun in our beautiful community.

It’s fun to watch visitors to the community come into the Welcome Center. They’re excited to be in Madison County, home to the birthplace of John Wayne and the world-famous covered bridges, as well as the inspiration for a best-selling novel and accompanying Hollywood production.

We ask visitors to sign a guest registry so we can tally how our dollars invested in tourism are paying off. It assists us in tracking what brings visitors to Madison County, which U.S. state or foreign country our guests are from and how they heard about our picturesque and historic community.  Here are a few things we learned about our visitors, as gleaned from the June guest registry:

Of the 1,052 visitors who took the time to sign the registry, 41 U.S. states were represented as well as 14 foreign countries. (Our friends from China arrived in droves during the month of June.)

Thirty-five percent indicated that their reason for visiting Madison County was to see the covered bridges, 26 percent indicated that John Wayne was their inspiration for coming, and 15 percent specifically mentioned the famous book and movie. The remainder visited us as a result of a combination of Internet advertising, print advertising and signage on the highways and interstates.

It definitely pays to market tourism in our county throughout the Midwest. Our highest concentration of visitors came from Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan and Colorado.  (However, the Texans really love to visit us, too.)

Though we don’t ask for visitor feedback on our guest registry (we typically see them when they’re beginning their visit to Madison County, rather than when they’re wrapping up), sometimes we get it. Here are a few comments from recent months:

“We enjoy Winterset!” says a visitor from North Carolina.

“I’ve been working in the area, and I want to see everything!” says a guest from Bolivar, Mo.

“Beautiful area! Glad to visit and will be back!” says someone from Lincoln, Neb.

“Beautiful” says a visitor from Tucson, Ariz.

And a guest from Coralville wrote “Downtown is pretty cool, too!” and added a smiley face to her entry.

Here’s another observation I’ve made: Visitors are awe-struck by the magnificent pink hanging baskets decorating our square.  Thank you, Winterset friends, for supporting this beautification project. We in the Welcome Center see the effect daily these flowers have on visitors to our town — visitors who are convinced that we live in a very special, extraordinary place.

And I couldn’t agree more.

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