For many communities on the make, tourism is the Holy Grail of business and revenue generation: It's relatively ecologically safe (unless you discount drunk tourists urinating on streets like in some places), it provides jobs for locals, money for the movers and shakers, and gives a lot of favorable publicity.
Some communities really stretch the point to be seen as a place to go, even to generating faux festivals such as the Opelousas's Yam Festival or the tobacco-spitting contest that Ripley, MS has.
Yeah, right? Do you really want to go into the boondocks to see some adept rednecks expectorate their chaws? After all, not every place is blessed initially with history, like the Alamo or Williamsburg or even Seattle. And Washington gives us reasons to be in awe of the various monuments, diligently active Federal workers, our august legislators passing wise laws to improve our general good. Miami, of course, gives us a glimpse of paradise, with warmish weather, beautiful sun-tanned bodies, Art deco buildings, and curious multi-cultural cuisine and corruption. And New Orleans has the Mardi Gras.
But how do you make a tourist attraction out of an essentially blah place?
One way is to make up your own language, as Boonville, CA has done: Boontling. That will attract some linguistically curious folk.
Or you can sponsor a mass exhibition of buttocks, as a Southern California community annually moons Amtrak. Or thong-wearers on South Beach do year round. Oops, Miami Beach is far from bland.
Or you can play up to the tinfoil hat wearers, as some enterprising people in Roswell, NM have done for over 50 years.
As a matter of fact, the USAF and the State of Nevada have a possible prime site for the New Paranoid Tourism: Area 51.
This secret, restricted area has the ability to draw curiosity more than any woodland with Posted: No Entry signs ever does. It's the aura of mystery. What strange creatures are lurking in Area 51? What fiendish experiments are taking place? What is the Air Force, or the C.I.A., or the Trilateral Commission, or the Bohemian Grove revelers covering up there? Is it a super-secret Burning Man Festival? There is the possibility that reality is quite a bit less than that imagined, but that shouldn't stand in the way of a successful tourism opportunity. Tourism sells the sizzle, not the steak.
Let's see: strategically place around the tourism area a few wrecked airframes and a few objects constructed to look like crashed flywing saucers. Or, even better, flying teacups. Those could be obtained surplus from Walt Disney World. Have a few employees dress like space creatures, but keep them safely in the distance.
Don't forget the t-shirt shop. "I've entered and returned from Area 51," "Area 51: More that what they say is going on," "They grow larger in Area 51."
And, who knows, maybe we'll start some people speculating about just what is going on in Area 52!
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