Published on : Thursday, August 7, 2014
Roger Brooks of Roger Brooks International, a marketing consulting firm for tourism, aims to create the place you want to be Brooks travels 350 days a year and spends most of them trying to create a place where you want to be. Brooks, 61, a tourism consultant, has worked with more than 1,000 destinations in 45 states and places abroad since the early 1980s. This is an edited transcript of a conversation he had recently.
Q: What turned you into a tourism consultant?
A: Tourism wasn’t even an industry for decades. It was just something people did. I was working in the music business, managing tours for bands like Fleetwood Mac and Earth, Wind & Fire, when I was asked to help develop the Whistler ski area in British Columbia into a world-class destination resort. I had no idea what I was doing, but I recruited investment, and it worked. We did resort projects for about 10 years. Then towns started calling and as they say, I never looked back.
Q: Which was the first town you worked with?
A: Ocean Shores, Wash. It’s on the Pacific Coast, and people called it Open Sores. It was the 1990s, and they were stuck in the ’60s. We brought in $300 million of development for new hotels, restaurants, a convention center and improving roads.
Q: Do you find yourself with a similar goal for each project, or is each different?
A: It all comes down to “How do we make this town a place that people want to come?” There are three ways. Branding: What sets you apart from everyone else? Product development: Where is the product that backs it up? And marketing: How do we tell the world?
Q: How often do you make radical recommendations or urge a place to completely redefine itself?
A: Fairly often. We just did Deadwood, S.D., which was the third casino town in the U.S. behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City. It worked fabulously for a while, but here’s the challenge: 48 of 50 states now have gambling. We have to do something that makes Deadwood worth a trip. We’re talking about music, entertainment, getting back to the Old West roots, and they’re planning a brand-new plaza in the downtown.
Q: How important is diversifying a destination?
A: Huge. The Great Smoky Mountains get more visitors than any other national park, but I asked the people in Gatlinburg, Tenn., “What would happen if the Smokies burned down?” They said, “We’d die on the vine.” I said then their goal is to become a destination that people would still want to visit, like Jackson Hole, Wyo., so that people would want to visit even if something happened with the national park.
Q: Do you ever miss the music industry?
A: Once you’re in the music industry, it’s in your blood forever. But tourism is the best industry on earth. It’s all about people having a good time and I help them in having it, what can be better than that?