Tourism Will Live And Die With Front-Line Workers

Jamestown is scrambling to make itself more tourist-friendly as the grand opening of the National Comedy Center nears.

Streetscape projects at Second and Washington streets and on Third Street are expected to be completed in time for the center’s big day while temporary wayfinding signs will begin popping up downtown to help direct visitors to parking lots and other amenities. The Jamestown Renaissance Corp. is working on an ambassador program for downtown businesses and attractors so that they can answer basic questions and make the visitor experience better.

The JRC program is a needed reminder that the success of any tourist venture in Jamestown is predicated upon the front-line workers who interact with people on a daily basis. The work of Tom Benson, Greg Edwards, Journey Gunderson and their team at the National Comedy Center will be for naught if visitors love the Comedy Center and hate their Jamestown experience. It will be the bartenders, cooks, chefs, cleaners, waiters, waitresses and cashiers who are the face of Jamestown. With a scant few weeks until the Comedy Center opens and visitors hopefully flood downtown Jamestown, the time is now for business owners to make sure their employees are ready, too. Downtown businesses need to make sure they, too, are ready. For example, restaurants located in close vicinity to the comedy center are throwing money down the drain if they are closed when visitors are out looking for somewhere to eat. Some business owners have struggled to capitalize on thousands of visitors delivered to their front door by concerts, hockey tournaments, comedy performers and basketball tournaments. Business owners who aren’t preparing their schedules and storefront appearance now for the August opening of the comedy center will miss out. What the JRC and Comedy Center officials are really asking is for Jamestown to compete with Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara Falls and other name-brand tourist destinations.

After all, tourism is one of the few areas of the economy in which there is an opportunity for quick growth in an area that needs all of the jobs it can get. It would be nice for area businesses to be able to count on a busy tourist season to bring hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars into downtown cash registers. Those employees can make up for a multitude of sins, such as owners located within a stone’s throw of the comedy center who open in the evening and struggle to take advantage of the thousands of people who come downtown for events.

Downtown employees are a lynchpin for the future of tourism in our area. Perhaps attractors can come together to think of a way to show appreciation for those workers at the end of the tourist season — a day tour of area attractions for workers and their families, perhaps, or some sort of event where front-line tourism employees can have some food and fun at the end of the season. It would certainly be a way to reinforce to hard-working employees that their efforts are important and appreciated.