Do we want to be just another town on the road, no different from any other?
Do we want to be outstanding and worthy of distinction?
Does Cuba make a good first impression?
When you drive into Cuba what do you notice? Is it clean and attractive? Are the streets, sidewalks, and parking lots clean? Are there businesses that make you want to stop? Does it have some claim to fame that makes people want to visit? Are there attractions and events promoted? Are the buildings in good repair? Are there weeds growing or does it have a cared-for look?
What if you just happened to stop in Cuba?
If you stop to get gas, are there reasons to spend more time, to eat here, to visit some of the attractions, or to return for a longer stay? Is there any reason to say anything about the town to anyone else that would encourage them to make a stop in our town? Are the clerks and townspeople friendly and informative? Is there a Visitor Center to offer the traveler information about the community? Do people point this out?
Would you return or suggest others visit?
If the town is visually pleasing, the people and clerks friendly, and there were interesting events or attractions, you will have a positive response.
Are all of the above attributes true of Cuba? Many of them are. Could there be improvement? Yes. Are we ready for the next step?
What can be done to improve on many of the postives that Cuba has going for it?
1. Be friendly. On trip advisor, many of the reviews mention if the people and townspeople who run businesses are friendly. Recently, Australian tourists were so impressed with the locals that poured coffee for them at a busy breakfast spot. When the owner at Gordoz didn’t charge them for the coffee and told them it was a Memorial Day gift, they were doubly impressed.
2. Be helpful. If you don’t know the answer to someone’s question, send them to the Visitor Center or ask someone else. Recently, one of the customers had to take over when a customer in a business asked about some of the local attractions and a clerk told them that there was nothing to do in Cuba. Cuba has an excellent Visitor Center with an informed staff. Take advantage of it. Don’t take the positive aspects of your town for granted or cut down Cuba to make a lame joke.
A recent woman who had car trouble wrote a Cuba Free Press letter to the editor complimenting the workers at the BP station for their help. She just happened to be a Convention and Visitors Bureau staff member from St. Louis. She recognized the outstanding work of these employees and went out of the way to acknowledge their help. And you can bet that she will tell others about her “Cuba experience.”
4. Be appreciative. If people travel to Cuba, when appropriate, let them know that we appreciate them visiting our town. Viva Cuba members often stop and ask tourists if they have mural brochures and talk to them for a bit. They often want to know about local businesses, restaurants, attractions, etc. We always thank them for visiting Cuba.
5. Listen to them and be responsive. If you are a clerk and checking them out, pay attention to them. Don’t spend that time talking to another person behind the counter or yelling across the store. Jackie at the Outpost General Store engages the customers in conversation and makes visiting the general store an experience, which causes a lot of positive word of mouth about the store. Joy at the Cuba Free Press runs out to buses touring the murals to give them mural brochures and sometimes one of the local papers.
6. Keep buildings in repair and get rid of weeds and clutter. Some of this is up to individual businesses and home owners, and some of it is up to the city to enforce its ordinances in a timely manner. Do we need more ordinances to take care of run down buildings, or do we need to enforce the ones we have?
Here’s an idea if you have an empty building. Clean the inside, wash the windows, and let us put a display of a seasonal nature or maybe some historical photos from Cuba in the window. Make your property an asset to Cuba.
Many businesses and organizations have adopted streets in Cuba and work to keep them clean. Let’s keep the momentum going and keep improving Cuba.
Who is responsible for making our town better?
We all are. The city (the Mayor and council), the people in the businesses and on the streets, the Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations can all look at Cuba with “fresh eyes” and decide on one or two things to do to improve Cuba or their part of it. It might be a good idea to drive into Cuba and think about what a tourist sees. Walk along the streets of Cuba and see what tourists see when they walk around looking at the murals. Walk around your business. What do you notice?
If you have a physical property, does it look the best it can? Are you giving back to your community or just taking from it?
Become a Cuba booster. Tell visitors about some of our major events like the fair in July, the September Car Show, or Cuba Fest in October? Tell them to return for these special events.
Below you will see a pair of grandparents from Illinois who are returning to Cuba and sharing it with their grandchildren. Thursday evening they were staying at the Route 66 Wagon Wheel Motel and eating meals here, shopping here, and probably buying gas here. When I told the grandmother about Cuba Fest the 3rd weekend of Cuba, she expressed a desire to return and take the trolley tours.
Why does it matter?
Visitors spend money, which funds the sales tax. When they stay in Cuba motels, they pay a tourism tax that helps promote tourism to Cuba, which generates more sales tax.
Even if you work at a Cuba plant or business that isn’t tourism-related you benefit from the taxes and the boost in the local economy. What helps tourism, helps business development. Businesses are more willing to relocate to a town that has a prosperous appearance and that employees won’t mind living in. That provides jobs for everyone and gives young people a reason to stay in their hometown. A better tax base also helps provide better schools, which influences many aspects of life in our town.
Think about $5.00 that a tourist might spend in our town. How many times is it re-spent as it moves into our economy as wages, retail purchases, or services?
Let’s make our attractions, our buildings, our people, and our organizations work together for a continually improving Cuba.