As a student here at the College of William and Mary, sometimes I forget that we are actually located next to a tourist attraction, Colonial Williamsburg. It’s hard to believe that people come to Williamsburg to relax when every week you, or someone you know, pulls an all-nighter to prepare for a test.
However, tourism here in Williamsburg is falling faster than anyone ever thought was possible. This could be because of the current recession, or people possibly just realized that Williamsburg is actually pretty boring and that they would like to visit more exciting places around the country.
Nearby Yorktown has recently experienced a boom in tourism by focusing on locals and day-trippers instead of overnight visitors. This is a great tactic that CW could use in order to increase its declining tourism rate — it’s not like a school with 5,500 students is right next to it or anything. If CW began to offer more attractions to younger generations it could increase its revenue dramatically.
This could be done rather easily and effectively, beginning with music. On Friday nights different bands play in Colonial Williamsburg. Most of the time these bands are geared toward the older people that live in the area. It is great that the older generation is entertained by the brass quartet whose members’s average age is 65, but younger people want music that appeals to them. I’m not suggesting that Williamsburg should start booking Top 40 bands, but it would not hurt to at least have a few groups with a couple of people under 35.
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The other thing that Yorktown has done differently from Williamsburg is spend money. The saying goes: you have to spend money to make money. And Williamsburg is just not doing this. Williamsburg should update itself by cleaning up things — I really don’t think leaving out horse poop is convincing anyone they’ve gone back in time — or by hiring more actors to greet and interact with tourists.
Williamsburg could also improve its hiking around the area. There are phenomenal views all around CW, but trails can be difficult to access and there seems to be a lack of publicity. The city needs to do a better job advertising itself and showing people why they would have a great time visiting such a historic site.
Let’s be honest, Williamsburg needs to stop catering toward the older generation and realize that there is a gold mine waiting to be tapped — the students of the College. Maybe if the city stopped considering itself a giant retirement home, it would realize that the area could appeal to everyone who lives in Williamsburg, not just older residents.
Though it is true that Williamsburg will never become young and hip, it would not hurt to try to spice things up a little. This could be done by allowing new restaurants and bars to open, as well as other attractions, for younger generations.
That would allow not only for money to be generated from tourists but from locals, too. Williamsburg has no excuse for driving away students and locals who would jump at the chance to actually enjoy themselves in a place that most young people in the area consider off limits.
E-mail Ben Arancibia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cartoon by Reland Happel.