by Jim Hinckley
Travel to and from, as well as the Miles of Possibilities Conference itself, provided a wide array of opportunities to promote Kingman, to learn how other communities are harnessing the resurgent interest in Route 66 as a catalyst for development and revitalization, and to develop partnerships for future marketing. It also inspired a bit of reflection.
Bill Thomas, the man behind the dramatic transformation of Atlanta, Illinois and chairman of the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative, noted that not all economic development is tourism but all tourism is economic development. I would add to this by saying that the process of transforming a community into a destination for visitors is the same one that makes it a place people want to live, to open businesses, to retire, and to raise families.
Kingman is a community that has yet to make the connection. A long term plan for developing tourism and economic development in a hand in glove fashion has not been developed. In this we are not alone.
Numerous communities have yet to make that connection and when comparing them to communities that have, such as Cuba, Missouri, Pontiac and Atlanta, Illinois, or Galena, Kansas, that becomes obvious.
However, what makes Kingman unique is that we have all of the key components for becoming a vacation destination in one location.
Pontiac has a spring, summer, and fall tourism season. In Kingman we can host visitors twelve months of the year.
As noted in my presentation at the Miles of Possibilities Conference, and at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Kingman is located 100 miles from a major international airport, there is direct service with Amtrack from Chicago or Los Angeles, and we are also at the crossroads of two major highway networks. We are also at the center of the longest uninterrupted, and arguably the most scenic, section of Route 66.
We have one of the best mountain bike trail systems in the state of Arizona, and two acclaimed hiking trail systems. The Grand Canyon, white water rafting, spelunking opportunities, wild life parks, trail rides, and Jeep trails are all found less than one hundred miles from the Kingman historic district.
Additionally, we have a railroad history, a WWII history, a mining history, and even Native American culture to capitalize on. No community anywhere along the Route 66 corridor, or anywhere in the country that I am aware of, has such an array of assets to build upon.
To say the very least, the Miles of Possibilities Conference, and the trip were inspiring and eye opening.
I explored the Delmar Loop district of St. Louis that is undergoing a rather dramatic transformation. The cornerstone is the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
This led to thoughts about the Route 66 Walk of Fame that began with such promise. Even though it languishes and is little more than a few overgrown bricks, it has garnered attention from Czech television crews, Dutch travelers, German motorcycle clubs, and Australian tour groups.
When listening to the tourism director from Pontiac, Illinois talk of how the Pontiac-Oakland Museum served as the catalyst for development of several major automotive events each year, my thoughts turned toward our embryonic electric vehicle museum, the only one of its kind in the world.
During a visit to the forlorn German and Italian military cemetery in Fort Reno, Oklahoma, and seeing that this is a destination for European travelers, I was thinking about the former Kingman Army Airfield. On numerous occasions, tour groups from Europe have asked for information about the airfield.
In listening to Aimee Awonohopay of the America Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association talk about the international interest in Native American culture, and plans to create a Route 66 advisory group for tribes along that highway corridor, my first thoughts were of our Hualapai neighbors in Peach Springs.
Fostering awareness of Kingman as a destination for travelers as well as those looking for a great place to retire, open a business, or retire, is a key component in the development of the Promote Kingman initiative. Joining in partnership with like minded organizations and entities such as the Route 66 Association of Kingman will serve to strengthen and magnify this community building initiative.
Further evidence that in regards to tourism there is a growing sense of community and community purpose can be found in the coalition of sponsors that made participation in the Miles of Possibilities Conference feasible: Grand Canyon West Resort, Savon Bath Treats, Hualapai Tribe, Kari Jo Hill, Grand Canyon Caverns, MyMarketing Designs, Promote Kingman, and Route 66 Association of Kingman.
In coming weeks I will share details about innovative projects being developed in other communities, with ideas on how we can apply them to Kingman. I will also speak on this during the presentation at Beale Celebrations on the evening of November 19 (tickets can be purchased through Promote Kingman).