The Disneyland complex - searching for Mickey Mouse
Jacqueline L. Evans
Ask anyone on the street to name the top five tourist attractions in America and Disneyland would certainly be on everyone’s list. Its incredible success has spawned the even more successful Disney world and millions of tourists every year experience the make-believe world created by the legendary Walt Disney. Unfortunately the success and, indeed, the very scope of Disney has engendered the false perception among many communities that successful tourism must revolve around similarly grandiose projects. The reality is something quite different.
Most communities can never hope to compete with the magnitude of a Disneyland anyway, and searching for another Mickey Mouse only distracts them from finding their own tourism niches and getting on with the show. A strong heritage tourism profile is achievable for every community of every size because each has its own unique heritage. Each has something to offer that no other community can offer because community is different. Different in ways beyond culture in the ethnic sense as we know it. Remember the old Aesop’s Fable about the dog with the bone in his mouth who looked into the stream and saw his own reflection? He perceived that the bone he saw in his reflection was bigger than the bone in his mouth, so he leaped into the water only to lose the bone that he already had. Communities are often like that about tourism, too. They waste valuable time and energy thinking about what everybody else has to offer in tourism – grasping for that elusive “bone” – that they lose sight of the tourism potential that they already have. They often give up in frustration when the solution is right under their very noses.
Successful tourism can be realized by every community, and it doesn’t take a cartoon character to make it happen. What it does take is a strong conviction, a plan of action, a long-range marketing strategy and dedicated human resources to bring it to fruition. Ah, but “what about funding?” you ask. When communities discover the will to succeed and focus on working together to develop their tourism profile, money is seldom an object. It is usually just an excuse for those communities which lack the commitment to follow through on their own convictions. There are countless sources of revenue for the development of heritage tourism and when communities want something badly enough they will find the financial resources to realize their objectives. If they are counting on another Mickey Mouse or Donald duck to save the day, forget it!