Heritage tourism development

 

Interpretational Signage©

When is your story too young

to be told?

Part 2

by

Jacqueline L. Evans

Jacqueline L. Evans

At what age is your story too new to be told or marketable?
The answer is quite simple: If travelers are left standing in front of your site with  questioning expressions on their faces, it qualifies for Interpretational Signage©.
The site can be 100 years old or three years old -  it can be a building, a crop, a statue, or a unique housing development and still have a story worth being told if it has its own individual unique story to tell.
Regardless of when the story/site began, heritage tourists have an unquenchable curiosity for wanting more information.  They want to know the distinctive differences between your site and the site of someone else.  It could be unusual construction materials, an innovative architectural design, a gunshot hole in the ceiling, or whatever makes your site distinctive.   Conversely, they may want to know the common thread (i.e. Lewis & Clark Trail) that will help them connect the dots of regional history.
If knowing what heritage tourists want is not a puzzle, then why do communities fall short in providing more  information through signage?  Because they are not confident that what they have is worthy of tourism and because they have an illusion that valuable tourism must be documented in published books.  Local developers need to take a fresh look at their tourism assets and begin marketing, with confidence, what they already have.
​How to avoid being ho hum (boring)?

Interpretational Signage© is not effective if it just rambles on and on.  The best signage has flair, is enticing and even sometimes humorous or tenderhearted like The Popcorn Man poem (Interpretational Signage© Part 1) Remember, if you want your site to be remembered, you must create a memorable element of surprise in the content of your signage.
Take small town main street store fronts.  Provided the architectural integrity has been maintained, architectural store fronts can lure  travelers out of their cars and onto the sidewalk for closer viewing in a "New York Minute."
Then the simple Interpretational Signage© displayed outside each shop will keep them there even longer.  It might be the uniqueness of the merchandise that generates the sales after they are in the door but it is the history revealed on the signage that pulls them in for a look-see!
Signs with vivid descriptions, pull in the visitors.  Visitors will naturally converse about the unique history with the proprietor which can put them into a friendly buying mood. They might even buy if only to remember something unusual they have experienced - what they’ve laughed about - what they’ve talked about in one of these shops.
​Have you ever seen potential auto buyers scope out dealerships late at night? I’ve done it myself, and I’ll bet you have too.  Nine times out of ten they go back during the daytime hours to talk business and often to buy.  Tourists do the same after dinner – after shop hours -​
and this is where Interpretational Signage© does the selling for you.  Interpretational Signage© isn't necessarily selling your products at the store front but selling an experience that can draw them inside your shop later. 
An intriguing story created with signage compels the reader to return the next day and learn more, see more, and ultimately buy more. It is the ”flair” of that compelling description that puts a smile on their faces and solidifies memories – memories prompting return trips and memories shared with others - soft marketing! 
And it doesn’t stop there.  It’s not uncommon for visitors to make repeat trips back to familiar and interesting places just to wander around and window shop. They might easily take the Sunday paper from their doorstep and travel 25-50 miles for breakfast in well-preserved surroundings to just simply watch the world go by. But the surroundings must be interesting and comfortable and peaceful.  And nothing creates that sense of ambiance than a touch of history.
​When is procrastinating in displaying Interpretational Signage© costing you money?
Every corner of a community can and should become “tourist friendly” with the right kind of signage.  Procrastinating until the “right time,” ”the right people,” or “the right preservations” are in place could be costing you money. So do it now but do it right.  Interpretational Signage© should be distinctive in design, easy to find, easy to see, easy to read, and interesting communicating a sense of fun and adventure to make history come alive for tourists.
So, is there really any reason to procrastinate?
Interpretational Signage© is almost as valuable as someone standing there sharing the story.  Remember, enticing visitors to want to know more is the goal.  Whatever the condition or age of your site, the story is never too new or too old to be told.

Rule of Thumb: If tour guides would highlight your individual site’s uniqueness in narration to a tour group, then provide Interpretational Signage© for individual tourists to enjoy as well.  What have you got to lose?

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