"To become a destination community where you’re the place visitors spend the night or multiple days, you must set yourself apart from everyone else."
While it may not be the primary reason why visitors come to our communities, shopping and dining in a pedestrian setting is the number one activity – and where visitors spend the most amount of money – other than lodging.
We are fortunate to have several pedestrian-oriented shopping areas throughout the 449 square mile South County Tourism region. Of particular note is the recently reinvigorated Wakefield area. Due in large measure to the improvements made along the William C. O’Neill Bike Path and by our local merchants. These improvements are a boon, to our visitors, residents, as well as our small businesses.
I, for one, am delighted to stroll along the newly improved Saugatucket River Walkway while enjoying an evening meal, shopping, and an occasional ice cream in Wakefield.
Many rural communities have been highly successful with the development of two or three blocks along a pedestrian “village” which includes visitor-oriented retail shops, dining, visitor information, restrooms, etc., all in an attractive, well-landscaped setting.
The general rule of thumb is seven to nine retail stores, and three or more dining establishments which can include sit-down restaurants, cafes, dessert and ice cream shops, etc.
“Visitor Retail” would include antique store, galleries, collectibles, souvenir shops, outfitters, bike rentals, activity shops (kites, hiking, climbing gear, etc.), home accents, jewelry, old-fashioned hardware stores, entertainment facilities such as movie theaters, pubs, etc. By grouping these businesses together, you create the “critical mass” in a pedestrian setting that will draw visitors and will make it worth their while to stop and shop.
To become a destination community where you’re the place visitors spend the night or multiple days, you must set yourself apart from everyone else.
The number one reason visitors stop is to use restroom facilities. If those facilities are in a place where visitors can spend time and money, spending will increase. Once a visitor gets out of the car, you have a four-time greater chance of getting them to spend money. Public restrooms DO generate additional spending. Restrooms are one of the easiest devices for luring visitors into your community. You’d be surprised at how effective they can be at bringing in more customers.
The proposed restroom facility in downtown Wakefield will provide relief to our visitors and our small business owners who will no longer face the dreaded question, “Can we use your restroom?” Instead of fleeing to the mall, or home, these visitors will continue to patronize downtown Wakefield.
South County’s Tourism Industry saves each and every property owner $1,349 a year in tax payments because we exist.
Congratulations to the Town of South Kingstown for improving residents and visitors experience while visiting our destination “South County.”
Restrooms attract more than flies – which will ultimately benefit us all!
Myrna C. George, President
South County Tourism Council