Assessment & Recommendations
For St. Augustine, Florida
The National Trust for Historic Preservation
The study team would like to express its gratitude to the following people: Jack Cubbedge, Bill Adams and his staff, Leslee Keys, Dana St Clair, Troy Bennet and the staff of the Casa Monica Hotel, Samuel Proctor.
The following persons were interviewed in person providing the study team with invaluable insight and background information: Bill Adams, Troy Bennett, Gordy Wilson, Fred Harris Jr, Bob Harper, Fred Halbeck, Tom Muir, Kari Hall, Taryn Rodriguez-Boette, Bill Abare, Roxanne Horvath, Dana Ste Claire, Jim Bryant, Jack Hunter, Ronnie Hughes, Carla Wright, Kathy Fleming, David Toner. Questionnaires were mailed and/or emailed to the following persons for additional information: David Rice, Otis Mason, Jerome Kass, Robert Hall, Frank and Betty Usina, Robert Giebeig, Joe Gordy, Landis Hewitt, Charlene Peterson Parish, Joyce Rogero, Bill Pucket, Len Weeks, Linda James, Phillip Bernstein, Michael Strock, Tom Kavanaugh, Dan Holiday, Herbie Wiles, Harvey Simms
We would also like to thank the City of St. Augustine and the St. Augustine Foundation for their support of this project.
The City of St. Augustine enjoys a unique place in American history. The “Nation’s Oldest City” dates from the 16th century, Its rich history has shaped the city and given it a physical legacy of diversity and beauty from the Castillo de San Marcos to the opulent resorts of the Flagler era. Although only a portion of the City’s heritage is documented and interpreted, it is so compelling that the City draws an estimated 6.2 million visitors each year.
A recent tourism study prepared by the University of Florida Center for Tourism Research and Development for the St Johns County Tourism Development Council (2002), revealed a great deal statistically about tourists and visitors to St Augustine and St. Johns County. This Heritage Tourism Assessment and Recommendations is intended to complement the statistical analysis by addressing the impact of these visitors, and recommending management techniques for improving both the visitor and the resident experience. Tourism, and Heritage Tourism in particular, continues to grow nationally and proactive leadership on the local level to anticipate and manage that growth can result in a dynamic environment with benefits for citizens and tourists.
The City of St Augustine has already begun many projects to manage tourism and its attendant effects. This study in part is meant to reinforce efforts in that direction while providing additional insight. Indeed, the City and various volunteers and consultants have already developed traffic and parking studies and signage and way finding plans. The ultimate challenge for the community is to find the resources and will to implement these plans and not let them merely gather dust on a shelf in City Hall.
OVERVIEW OF TOURISM IN ST. AUGUSTINE
The resounding theme in virtually every meeting during the National Trust team’s site visit was St. Augustine’s need to “manage the visitor experience”. Accomplishing this goal requires a two-fold approach:
1) Management – Developing policies that guide where visitors go and when – and enforcing those policies – will make residents feel less overwhelmed by having visitors in town every day.
2) Visitor Services – In order to be able to manage the visitor experience, appropriate visitor services must be provided. These include such things as signage, orientation services, and maps.
Those involved in tourism and the city must also answer some critical questions regarding visitation to St. Augustine:
1) Is current marketing targeting the desired audiences?
2) Does St. Augustine want more visitors?
3) Or does St. Augustine want the visitors who are currently coming to stay longer and spend more money?
4) Who benefits from having tourists in St. Augustine? Who should benefit? Residents? Business owners? Historic sites? How can benefits be shared throughout the community?
This report will address the issues of management and visitor services using the National Trust’s five guiding principals of sustainable cultural heritage tourism (which are outlined in the following section) as organizing themes. The study also has an additional section addressing the marketing of St Augustine.
This study was conducted from 2002-2003 and involved research that included a preliminary site visit and citizen interviews in July 2002, a team site visit and additional interviews in December 2002 and a final presentation in June 2003.
An Overview of Heritage Tourism
WHAT IS HERITAGE TOURISM?
Heritage tourism means traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. These authentic experiences include irreplaceable historic resources.
WHAT BENEFITS DOES HERITAGE TOURISM OFFER?
Tourism is big business. In 2000, travel and tourism contributed $584.3 billion to the U.S. economy. Travel and tourism is the third largest retail industry in the U.S. behind automotive dealers and food stores. Travel and tourism directly employs more than 7.8 million people and indirectly supports another 11.5 million jobs, creating 19 million jobs (Source: 2001 Tourism Works for America Report).
In addition to creating new jobs, new business and higher property values, well-managed tourism improves the quality of life and builds community pride. According to a 2001 Report on Cultural and Historic Tourism, visitors to historic sites and cultural attractions stay longer and spend more money than other kinds of tourists. Heritage visitors spend, on average, $631 per trip compared to $457 for all U.S. travelers, and they spend and average of 4.7 nights away from home as compared to 3.4 nights for all other travelers. (Source: Travel Industry Association of America). Between 1998 and 2000 57% of all travelers added one or more nights to their trip for a cultural activity according the Travel Industry Association of America and Partners in Tourism. Perhaps the biggest benefits of heritage tourism, though, are diversification of local economies and preservation of a community’s unique character.
WHAT CHALLENGES CAN HERITAGE TOURISM BRING?
One challenge is ensuring that tourism does not destroy the very heritage that attracts visitors in the first place. Furthermore, tourism is a competitive, sophisticated, fast-changing industry that presents its own challenges. Heritage tourism is a resource based industry and one that can be a sustainable industry. Though it does put demands on the infrastructure – on roads, airport, water supplies, and public services like police and fire protection.
WHAT MAKES HERITAGE TOURISM WORK?
By working in local communities across the country over the past decade, the National Trust has developed five guiding principles to create a sustainable heritage tourism program.
2) Find the fit between a community and tourism
3) Make sites and programs come alive
4) Focus on quality and authenticity
5) Preserve and protect resources
Collaboration is the basis of all successful heritage tourism programs as it provides a unique opportunity to unite partners who may not have worked together in the past. By its very nature, heritage tourism requires effective partnerships. Partnering the “history and culture world” with the “business of tourism” offers a combination that can benefit everyone. There are lots of reasons to collaborate, including: financial incentives, program development, increasing product offerings for the visitor, defining new markets and new tactics to reach those markets, putting a new spin on an old product, benefiting from a partner’s expertise and reputation, strengthening relationships between industries, setting the stage for future partnerships.
There are many stakeholders in St. Augustine’s tourism industry including:
_ Business owners – Ranging from businesses that depend on tourism such as souvenir shops and sightseeing tours to those that primarily serve residents but can also serve visitors such as drug stores or discount stores.
_ Restaurants – St. Augustine offers a diversity of restaurants ranging from fast-food establishments to upscale, locally owned restaurants.
_ Accommodations – Chain hotels and motels, one-of-a-kind and unique bed and breakfasts.
_ Attractions – Nonprofit historic sites and museums to for-profit attractions and tours.
Additionally, many entities are stakeholders in the success of tourism in St. Augustine. These include:
_ City Government – Residents look to city officials to regulate tourism and provide services to visitors.
_ Department of Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism – Besides managing historic sites and the Visitor Center, the department is charged with raising its own operating funds and being a self-sustaining department.
_ St. Johns County Tourist Development Council and St. Augustine / St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau – Receives all of the funding generated through the county’s bed tax. Develops annual marketing plan and controls distribution of funds.
_ St. Augustine & St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce – Provides training and support to its members in the tourism industry
_ St. Augustine Historical Society – In addition to managing a major attraction, the society manages an archival history of St. Augustine, and therefore an important resource for authentically interpreting the city to visitors.
_ Residents – The success or failure of tourism and how it is managed will directly impact – and directly depend on – the residents of St. Augustine.The most pressing challenge among all of these stakeholders is that each is functioning independently of the others. Although various organizations do work together in some instances (such as the Attractions Association), or for specific causes (such as residents forming temporary alliances to fight or support a cause), there is no entity that brings these widely varying stakeholders together regularly to work in a collaborative manner.
It is important to note that collaboration is a constant, long-term process. While collaboration can be used to achieve many discreet and measurable goals, it is in and of itself an ongoing goal and must continue and be supported in order to promote effectively a heritage tourism program for St. Augustine.
1) Establish a St. Augustine Heritage Tourism Task Force (hereinafter referred to as the Task Force) – The city should appoint a task force with representatives from each of the groups outlined above. Care should be given in the selection process that each of the stakeholder groups has equal representation so that all opinions and ideas may be heard. St. Augustine may want to use the City of Charleston as a model in this regard, and if so, the National Trust can organize a travel itinerary for St Augustine representatives. It is important that the city take a vital and proactive role in this process in order to give the task force the authority and support it will need.
2) Hold a Series of Facilitated Working Sessions – Sessions should include the following topics:
_ understand the methods of building partnerships;
_ identify the major issues and opportunities;
_ identify strategies and solutions;
_ identify policies that need to be developed and enforced
_ understand the current visitor profile,
_ understand how the city is being marketed;
_ develop a heritage tourism plan that manages tourism,
generates revenue, addresses preservation needs of
historic resources, and maintains or improves the city’s quality of life.
The sessions should be facilitated by a consultant with heritage tourism expertise who is not from the St Augustine area and thus will have no affiliations or allegiances.
3) Develop a Communications Strategy – The process of building partnerships and developing a heritage tourism plan will require increased communications among all of the stakeholders. Clear and proactive communication gives this process a “transparency” that will aid participants and build trust within the community. Several methods should be implemented to accomplish this including:
_ subcommittees should meet between the planning to sessions to work on specific topics;
_ establish a communications system such as weekly e-mail updates;
_ provide regular reports on the task force’s progress through local media, speaking to civic organizations and other venues;
_ develop and implement a communications plan to convey the benefits of tourism to local residents
4) Establish a Lead Agency as a Clearinghouse – Residents and tourism industry stakeholders should have a clear method of communicating their needs, complaints or interests. There are currently many stakeholders, which, while a benefit in some respects, also complicates the communication process. The task force should identify which agency or person will be the clearinghouse for information on tourism in St. Augustine. The clearinghouse should maintain up-to-date records and contact information for every aspect of tourism – from how the VCB budget operates to who is working on developing new signage to when the next big event is planned. This clearinghouse should be communicated to St. Augustine citizens as a response to their desire for more input and more information about tourism in their hometown.
Find the Fit Between the Community and Tourism
An important benefit of heritage tourism programs is that they develop resources that make a community a good place to live. They also celebrate a community’s heritage, thereby instilling pride in local residents. It is critical to balance the needs of residents and visitors so that heritage tourism benefits everyone.
Understanding the kind and amount of tourism that your community can handle is the key to success in this principle. Among the benefits of “finding the fit” are:
_ a successful heritage tourism program encourages additional investment locally;
_ residents provide a hospitable welcome to visitors;
_ residents take pride in knowing about their community’s history and the location of various attractions and sharing this information with visitors;
_ knowing that a heritage tourism program is being developed can encourage a community to look at its historic resources with fresh eyes and result in efforts to preserve and protect these irreplaceable treasures;
_ residents can be among the first to benefit from a cultural heritage tourism program with the creation of new jobs
_ residents can provide a pool of volunteers to get involved with heritage attractions as tour guides, event organizers, board members or donors;
_ the program can dispel fears that a tourism program will be run by big corporations or “outsiders” by continually soliciting the involvement of the community.
Tourism has been a part of St. Augustine’s history and economy for more than a century. However, in recent years the constant growth of the tourism market in St. Augustine has changed the balance between visitor and resident. A recently completed Heritage Tourism Study estimates that the annual visitation to St Augustine is 6 million, including day-trippers and those who stay overnight. While some may see that number as an overestimation, clearly the number exceeds earlier estimates which were in the 3 million range.
St. Augustine is a city of approximately 12,000 residents. The constant growth in tourism affects the delicate balance between the visitor experience and the resident experience. In informal discussions in the summer of 2002, everyone interviewed expressed frustration with inadequate infrastructure, insufficient parking, traffic congestion and the degradation of resources and/or quality of life.
Tourism is no longer a seasonal activity in St. Augustine, it is constant. Clearly, the situation is putting strains on the capacity of the city to accommodate this large number of visitors and is straining the patience of residents who feel overrun by the visitors. Strong, active leadership by city leaders and tourism officials is required to re-establish the balance between the needs of visitors and residents. As with Collaboration, Finding the Fit is a process not a product, and it must continue to be an ongoing process that is periodically evaluated and adjusted.
1) Invite Residents to Voice Concerns and Suggestions on Accommodating Visitors – The Heritage Tourism Task Force should gather information from residents about their expectations and concerns in hosting visitors. Two methods that are useful in this process are:
a) Host a series of public meetings to determine residents’ expectations and concerns about heritage tourism. Create a vehicle for discussion about how heritage tourism can improve the quality of life for residents as well as serve visitors. For example, what level of tourism growth is the community comfortable with? Do they want motorcoaches and recreational vehicles downtown or do they prefer promotion to families in automobiles? Cultural heritage tourism organizers also need to explain their goals and how they expect to measure the return on investment that will benefit the community with specific examples. Also, be prepared to address issues such as congestion, littering, investment costs or whatever residents express concerns about.
b) Conduct community opinion surveys. Publishing surveys in the local newspaper is one method for gathering opinions, although only residents who are extremely motivated will take the time to participate. Another approach is to conduct door-to-door interviews with a carefully designed survey. Utilizing students at Flagler College may be a cost-effective means of accomplishing this, although to get best results the survey should be designed and supervised by a professional researcher.
Responses to residents’ concerns must be publicized as part of the process of rebuilding goodwill about tourism. It is important that residents not only know that their concerns were heard, but that they were acted on as well. The responses of the Task Force can be publicized through additional public meetings or through the local media.
In addition to providing information, residents should be encouraged to become involved in the process. The Task Force should provide a venue for residents to serve on committees, volunteer as guides, participate in hospitality training, sponsor special events, or participate in other ways.
2) Research How Other Cities Manage Tourism and Maintain Quality of Life – The Task Force should research other cities of comparable size that are also facing tourism management issues. Savannah and Beaufort have both adopted and adapted the “Charleston model” to suit their needs. The “Charleston model” involves the adoption of a comprehensive tourism management ordinance, the location and construction of a visitor’s center outside of the residential historic district with adequate parking and adjacent public transportation, and the development of tourist attractions such as public parks, aquarium and carriage tours away from the residential historic district. Either through correspondence and or actual visits, the tourism task force needs a mechanism to report to the community at large on its findings in these communities.
3) Develop a Tourism Management Ordinance – It is important that this ordinance evolve out of the experience of the task force and with input from public meetings. While ordinances from other cities can be studied as models, it is imperative that none of them be adopted as an “off the shelf” solution for St. Augustine’s problems (that being said, a copy of Charleston’s ordinance can be found in the appendix). St. Augustine’s specific issues are unique as is its resident population and its historic resources. Any tourism management ordinance for the city must be carefully crafted to meet the city’s situation. Any ordinance that is not created as part of a public dialogue and process will not adequately reflect the needs and the characteristics of St Augustine. At best such an ordinance will not adequately address the city’s needs and at worst will fail. The process could take six months to a year, but the process is vitally important and should not be scrapped for a false sense of expediency. Once established, the ordinance should be reviewed regularly and adjusted as needed as part of an overall process established by the Task Force and the residents.
” It is the purpose of such regulation to maintain, protect and promote the tourism industry and economy of the city and, at the same time, to maintain and protect the tax base and land values of the city, to reduce unnecessary traffic and pollution and to maintain and promote aesthetic charm and the quality of life for the residents of the city.”
Ordnance of the City of Charleston Section 29-1
Make Sites and Programs Come Alive
As competition continues to increase in the tourism industry, looking for creative ways to bring your heritage attraction and program to life becomes even more important. It is not enough anymore to just preserve a historic site or to print a brochure guiding visitors through a heritage area. The visit itself must be compelling, educational and entertaining for visitors to consider it a success, and to develop positive word-of-mouth advertising. Consider these two definitions of interpretation:
A planned effort to create for the visitor an understanding of the history and significance of events, people, and objects with which the site is associated.
American Association of Museums
An educational activity which aims to reveal meanings and relationships using original objects, by firsthand experience, and by illustrative media, rather than simply communicate factual information.
Interpreting Our Heritage, by Freeman J. Tilden
Both definitions convey the need to create an experience that will encourage the visitor to understand why a historic resource and its associated events are historically important. It is also important to recognize that today’s visitors are more sophisticated and well traveled than previous generations; however, they are less educated about our country’s history. These characteristics make it ever more challenging for heritage sites to tell their story.
So what do travelers want when they visit a heritage site? Consider these components when planning your interpretation:
_ Knowledgeable Interpreters – Anyone who has visited many heritage sites has had – at least once – the experience of the “furniture” tour, the endless identification of objects and recitation of names and dates. This type of tour is no longer acceptable for today’s visitors, who expect a well-informed interpretation that places the heritage site in the context of local or national history and presents the information in an educational and entertaining manner
_ Interaction – Today’s travelers do not want to be “talked to” – rather they want to be “talked with” by heritage site guides. Providing an opportunity for visitors to ask questions and make comments about their own knowledge and experience enhances the visit and leaves a more lasting impression than the traditional tour where the guide does all the talking.
_ Critical Thinking – Travelers visit historic sites to experience a part of our country’s past and to learn more about our history. Heritage sites and programs can come alive when programmers allow visitors to think about the information they are given and draw their own conclusions about historical incidents and the lessons they offer for today. This opportunity exists whether in interaction with an interpreter or through reading a self-guided tour brochure or exhibit labels that concludes with questions that visitors can ponder.
_ Hands-On Activities – Demonstrations, such as soap making or gardening, offer creative programs that can make sites come alive and involve visitors in daily activities of the past.
_ Special Events – Living history re-enactments, musical performances, candlelight tours and other special events can enhance the everyday setting of cultural and heritage sites by offering new, memorable experiences for visitors.
St. Augustine has a remarkable and unique history, which offers a multitude of opportunities for making sites and programs come alive. The interpretive experience starts when the visitor arrives and begins the orientation process. The experience continues as the visitor tours historic sites, walks through the historic downtown and perhaps stays in a historic hotel. The current experience is a somewhat disjointed offering – ranging from historic sites that do not interpret their history in an authentic manner, to a historic district (St. George Street) that is filled with retail but little interpretation, to a Visitor Center that does not offer an effective orientation to the city and its historical offerings.
While the Spanish and Colonial history of St. Augustine is documented and promoted (if not always completely or accurately), the history of St. Augustine and the tangible resources of the history which remain extend well into the 20th century. The whole history of St. Augustine needs to be documented, celebrated, and interpreted. There are many opportunities to enliven the current interpretation and create new interpretation which will offer a more complete and accurate experience for visitors to St. Augustine.
1) Overhaul Visitor Center Management and Operations – The Visitor Center is the logical first stop for visitors arriving in St. Augustine. Visitors will have the expectation that they can stop here for an orientation and to receive assistance in planning what they will see in the city. Currently, although the Visitor Center is in a good location, it falls short of meeting the obligation of providing services that are helpful to the visitor. Because of budgetary issues, the center is viewed as a revenue source, not a visitor service. Several significant changes are recommended to make the Visitor Center an effective resource.
a) The City of St. Augustine must take responsibility for the management of the Visitor’s Center. The current “privatization” of the center may meet some immediate and perceived financial needs but it does not serve the visitor – the very reason for its existence.
b) All of the city’s attractions, accommodations, restaurants, retail and other visitor services should be represented The “pay to play” approach results in a limited number of resources being promoted to visitors and excludes those without the funds to participate, in particular the smaller nonprofit historic sites. It also contributes to a commercialized atmosphere that makes St. Augustine appear to be a theme park instead of a historical city.
c) All exhibits need to be redesigned and upgraded to tell a cohesive story about the city’s history. The archaeology exhibits currently on display are decorative but do not contribute to an understanding of history. An interpretive plan should be created to determine what exhibits will be developed to tell the history of the city and to convey the restoration process that has existed for almost 100 years.
d) Visitor Center staff should receive training on working with visitors and should be required to become familiar with all St. Augustine’s resources. A regular schedule of training, including familiarization tours of the city, should be established. The staff from various attractions who are currently selling tickets should be required to participate in this training. In addition, general information staff must be added and placed at clearly marked information booths so that visitors understand who is able to provide information overall city and who is primarily selling attraction tickets.
e) By enhancing the exhibits and making the Visitor Center a true orientation center, visitors are likely to stay longer. This creates the opportunity to establish a café and a museum quality store instead of the current snack shop and souvenir stand. These two additions can generate income to support the Center
f) The entrance to the center should be clearly marked from the parking lot. Currently visitors are likely to enter the center at the rear entrance and then be confused about where to go.
2) Conduct an Interpretive Assessment for St. Augustine – An interpretive specialist should be retained to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the interpretive program for the entire city and all the individual sites. The specialist will examine how current interpretation contributes to the “big picture” and can develop an interpretive plan that encompasses all of St. Augustine’s history and historic resources.
3) Establish Regular Assessment for Historic Sites – Sites should have an ongoing assessment program to review programs and to provide training on appropriate interpretive techniques. Consideration should be given to creating a position of interpretative specialist, (perhaps hired through the attractions association–NOT a city position) to review the how, where, and what is being told. The position would be could serve as an attraction and tour auditor as well as interpretive trainer.
4) Document and Interpret All of St. Augustine’s History – The city offers the unique opportunity of interpreting the Spanish influence in early America. Additionally, there are other historical eras (such as the Flagler era), which should be interpreted to give visitors the fullest sense of how the city evolved. This can be accomplished through interpretation of existing and proposed historic districts.
5) Develop an enhanced Self guided for St. George Street (perhaps even an audiotour) – This historic area’s interpretation is only available to those who discover the Spanish Quarter, a site managed by the Department of Historic Preservation and Tourism. The millions of visitors who enjoy the retail shops along the street have access to little information about the historic significance of the district. An audio guide available at the visitor’s center or through the retail businesses would allow for a detailed interpretation of the Spanish Quarter and individual buildings without the addition of a lot of printed material in terms of signage or books. Appropriate signage could be placed at either entrance to the district directing visitors to the tours. The tours could be produced in English, Spanish or other languages.
6) Improve Signage and Wayfinding throughout the City – St. Augustine has developed a comprehensive signage program, which has not yet been implemented. A few signs have been placed downtown, but this is an ineffective mechanism for testing their suitability. Placement of signage – beginning with directions to the historic downtown from highway entrances – must be a priority. Currently, plans call for implementation of the way finding system in 2006 with the use of TEA-21 funds. It is strongly recommended that funds be found – perhaps from the bed tax – to place this signage system throughout St. Augustine immediately. The way finding system will benefit visitors in finding their way, but it will also address residents’ desires to manage tourism by directing visitors where they should go – and away from areas where the city does not want visitors.
Focus on Authenticity and Quality
There is an old saying that “truth is stranger than fiction.” In reference to cultural and heritage sites, perhaps it would be better expressed as “truth is more interesting than fiction.” That is why Principle Four: Focus on Authenticity and Quality, must not be overlooked and must be undertaken in conjunction with Principle Three: Make Sites and Programs Come Alive.
Telling the real, authentic story ensures that visitors will have a fuller understanding of St. Augustine’s fascinating history. Visitors have a right to expect that they are being told the truth when they travel to an area that promotes its heritage experiences. Insisting on quality in every area – from restoration to interpretation to collateral materials – means offering visitors the best experience possible. Additionally, from a marketing perspective, the authentic historical story is what sets St. Augustine apart from any other place in the country. Authenticity offers a marketing edge that no other place can compete with.
To understand the expectations of heritage travelers, we can look in two areas, demographics and cultural trends:
Which groups promise to be active cultural heritage travelers in the coming decades? The fastest growing segment of the United States population is baby boomers, which has been identified by the National Tour Association (NTA) and other tourism organizations as a major growing tourism market. For the next 16 years, 340,000 boomers will turn 50 each month.
And this group has very specific expectations about their travels. A 1998 study by NTA notes:
” Because boomers are more experienced travelers, they will expect more from their experiences, and terms such as cultural tourism, heritage tourism, sports tourism, active tourism, adventure travel, and ecotourism will be commonly used within the next decade.”
2) Current Cultural Trends
Coupled with this demographic trend, we are also seeing a revival in patriotism and interest in our country’s history among all demographic groups. This interest has expanded from a singular focus on the country’s military and political leaders to wanting to know about everyday life and social history. Historian and author David McCullough may have said it best:
” For a long time the spotlight has been on only a relatively few people – white, male descendants of Western Europeans. Now the lights on the stage are coming up, revealing for the first time all of the others who have been on the stage all the time.”
More on Demographics and Trends
The picture of demographics and trends becomes more complicated when looking at statistics about the next generation of heritage travelers – students. Recent studies show that schools are spending less time on American history while at the same time trying to address the broadening perspective on history.
A recently released study titled Restoring America’s Legacy revealed the lack of education that college students receive in American History. The report was based on a survey of students at America’s top colleges and universities. In a series of high school level American History questions, 81% of the students would have received a grade of D or F if the survey had been a graded test. (American Council of Trustees and Alumni, September 2002). The study also pointed out that 78% of the colleges and universities in the country do not require a course in history in order to graduate. Another study showed that 57% of high school students fall below a basic understanding of American History (National Assessment of Educational Progress, U.S. History Report Card, 2001).
This trend has consequences for historic sites in several ways:
1) Historic sites and museums may become the primary method for the next generation of travelers to learn about American history because they are no longer receiving that education in high school or college.
2) Interpretation programs must not only explain the history of what happened at that particular site, they must help visitors understand it in the larger context of American history during that particular time period.
3) Authenticity is critical for these “up and coming heritage travelers” who will be likely to accept and believe the information presented to them as being accurate and truthful.
4) Generating the interest of this next generation of travelers will mean providing an outstanding presentation of the historic resource that combines Principle 3, Make Sites and Programs Come Alive, and Principle 4, Focus on Authenticity and Quality.
St. Augustine Heritage Tourism Study – Findings on Authenticity
Vital information about the expectations, perceptions of authenticity and previous historical knowledge by St. Augustine’s heritage travelers is documented in the recent Heritage Tourism Study conducted by the University of Florida. Among the findings are:
_ Importance of Authenticity – 61% of visitors traveling to St. Augustine specifically to experience culture and heritage felt that authenticity was very important. 41-43% of all non-heritage travelers felt that it was important as well.
_ Experiencing the Region’s Historic Character – 65.3% of heritage travelers felt it was very important to experience the region’s historic character. 46-48% of non-heritage travelers felt it was important.
_ Perceived Authenticity – On a scale of 1 to 5, historic architecture, museums, and historic objects ranked 4.1 in perceived authenticity. Souvenirs ranked the lowest at 3.1.
From this study, travelers to St. Augustine perceive that their heritage experience is authentic. However, looking at the question about previous knowledge, we gain additional insight into the capacity of visitors to accurately judge the authenticity of historic sites.
An astonishing 88% of those surveyed indicated they had previous historical knowledge of the sites they visited in St. Augustine. However, only 7.2% said they had extensive knowledge. The majority were less well informed: 58.4% said they had limited knowledge, and 8.7% said they had no previous knowledge of St. Augustine’s history. What does this mean in terms of authenticity for St. Augustine?
Evaluating Demographics and Trends
By looking across the spectrum at current and future cultural heritage travelers, both in the general population and travelers to St. Augustine, we can draw several conclusions.
1) Travelers are interested in history. No matter what their level of knowledge about American history, a large number of travelers are interested in learning about the history of the places they visit.
2) Travelers believe that they are hearing the truth. The Heritage Tourism Study of St. Augustine clearly showed that while the majority of travelers had either no previous or limited previous knowledge of St. Augustine’s history, they believed that what was presented to them at historic sites, museums or guided tours, was authentic. 85.5% said they had learned something new by visiting these sites. This conveys a large degree of trust on the part of these travelers that they are being told the truth and what they are learning is accurate historically.
3) Heritage Sites have an obligation to present their sites with authenticity and quality. – Responding to this interest in history, and the trust that heritage travelers place in them, St. Augustine’s sites must make a concerted effort to present their stories in a truthful manner.
Authenticity and Quality: A Matter of Ethics
The American Association of Museums (AAM) created a Code of Ethics to promote integrity within the museum community and provide the public with guidelines about what to expect from museums. To meet the Code of Ethics, museums must ensure the following:
_ Programs support its mission and public trust responsibilities
_ Programs are founded on scholarship and marked by intellectual integrity
_ Programs are accessible and encourage participation of the widest possible audience consistent with its mission and resources
_ Programs respect pluralistic values, traditions and concerns
_ Revenue-producing activities and activities that involve relationships with external entities are compatible with the museum’s mission and support its public trust responsibilities
_ Programs promote the public good rather than individual financial gain
Authenticity and Quality in St. Augustine’s Attractions
St. Augustine is a city that has long been a destination for tourists. The resulting mix of attractions reflects the desire of different entities to reach this audience – ranging from the St. Augustine Historical Society’s Oldest House to the original Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. This mix can be divided into three categories:
1) Authentic – Sites like the Oldest House and Castillo de San Marcos are managed by professional preservationists, historians and interpreters and seek to not only preserve the site, but to tell the authentic story of its history.
2) Not Authentic – These sites are presented as heritage attractions, but do not live up to standards of authenticity. Instead, they embellish stories, relying on myths to “improve” on the historical facts. This includes sites such as the Fountain of Youth and Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse.
3) “Theme Park” Attractions – These attractions only give a nod to a relationship with the area’s history, but benefit from the large numbers of tourists coming to St. Augustine. They are primarily entertainment oriented, rather than having a heritage education component. Examples of these sites include Ripley’s, 3-D World, the Wax Museum, and the Ghost Tours.
Devise a system for denoting authentic experiences
Each of the categories listed in the previous section presents challenges for St. Augustine’s heritage tourism program. Many of the truly authentic sites, such as the Oldest House, are operated by nonprofits with limited budgets for staffing and marketing.
Additionally, because of the fragility of the historic resource, capacity for visitation remains an issue.
The sites that are not authentic detract from a heritage tourism program because they do not tell their stories in a real and authentic manner. This can be both confusing and disappointing to visitors who expect that they are being told the real story of the historic site. The reconstruction of the fortifications near the Visitor Center is an example of a non-authentic attempt to tell an authentic story. The construction materials seem inappropriate for this project and could detract from the story that is being told. An exception to this could be the reconstructions along St. George Street. These reconstructions can be helpful in telling the authentic story, but they also offer an opportunity to convey the story of earlier attempts at preserving the city’s history.
The “theme park” attractions, while not presenting themselves as historic sites, have marketing budgets that enable them to overshadow the real historic sites, resulting in a lessened emphasis on St. Augustine’s marketing as a city for heritage travelers.
A system should be developed to eliminate misinformation for all aspects of the visitor experience UNLESS it is explicitly identified as such. This process should be applied to attractions, printed material and guided tours.
The question then becomes “How do we convey what is authentic, encourage all sites to be authentic, and work in harmony with those who have entertainment, not authenticity, as their mission?”
The Lancaster Authenticity Model
A program similar to one established in Lancaster, Pennsylvania could be developed to address these issues and offer the best heritage experience for the visitor. Recognition of sites that are authentic through special designation and marketing efforts could encourage those that are not currently providing authentic interpretation to change their interpretation program to one that focuses on authenticity.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania is one of the first cities in the United States to create authenticity guidelines to qualify heritage sites and attractions. Organizers defined an authentic resource as a site, service, or event that reflects a community cultural heritage. A resource shows evidence of authenticity through the survival of features that existed during its period of significance and through its association with historic events, persons, architectural or engineering design, or technology. The county created different criteria for each type of authentic resource.
_ A Heritage Site is a landscape, streetscape, building, object, or collection of objects that meet the Authenticity Guidelines established by Lancaster County Heritage. In order to be eligible for designation, a resource must also be open to the public with regular established hours, and must directly interpret some aspect of Lancaster County’s heritage. Evidence of authenticity is strengthened by listing on, or eligibility for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places. For an object or collection of objects, evidence of authenticity is strengthened by interpretation that meets professional curatorial standards.
_ A Heritage Service is a research facility, tour, lodging facility or dining facility that meets the Authenticity Guidelines. In order to be eligible, a resource must also be open to the general public with regular established hours, and must directly interpret some aspect of Lancaster County’s heritage. Authentic interpretation conveys information about a community’s cultural heritage through an accurate, objective portrayal of people, sites, places, or events. This information must be made available to visitors through signage, printed materials or other media, exhibits or tours.
_ A Heritage Event is an activity that meets the Authenticity Guidelines. In order to be eligible, an activity must be open to the public, must be scheduled on a regular basis at least once annually, and must directly interpret some aspect of Lancaster County’s heritage. A Heritage Event is classified as one of two types:
A Traditional Heritage Event is a commonplace activity that is rooted in local culture. This activity must demonstrate a clear relationship to the cultural tradition being expressed, and must be promoted accordingly.
An Interpretive Heritage Event is a staged activity reflecting cultural tradition and designated to be educational. This activity must clearly indicate the historic period, season of the year, and location being interpreted and must be promoted accordingly.Organizers next designed a logo to identify a site, service or event a representing Lancaster’s heritage in an authentic manner. Those receiving authenticity designation may use the logo in banners, brochures, signage advertisements, or in other ways to identify their site, service, or event as authentic. County tourism promoters highlight these sites in their promotions and inform visitors to look for the logo as a sign of authenticity. (Authenticity Guidelines: Lancaster County Planning Commission, Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Preserve and Protect Resources
A community’s cultural, historic, natural, and folk life resources are irreplaceable elements of a heritage tourism experience. Travelers will not spend much time in an area that only offers the opportunity to read signs commemorating buildings that no longer exist. These resources are tangible reminders of the community’s past and are essential in telling its story to visitors.
To preserve and protect resources, there are many factors that should be considered. Cost , including both rehabilitation/
restoration costs and on-going maintenance costs for historic resources is one factor. What sort of fundraising plans are in place for historic resources? Timing is another factor. The timing of resource preservation should be considered in the development of a heritage tourism program. Specific skills are needed which can range from master craftsmen to environmental experts, folklorists and exhibit developers to name a few.
Planning is a key factor in preserving and protecting resources. Comprehensive plans should include a preservation component and appropriate inclusive ordinances should designate historic places and detail protective measures for them. Sign ordinances, open space and view shed protection, and height ordinances are other considerations. Private non profit organizations have a role in planning processes. Land trusts and preservation organizations can also plan and prioritize in order to protect important historic resources.
Visitation can bring with it issues of long-term impact and sustainability. Growth in the number of visitors could require limitations on attendance, additional security, even structural reinforcements for specific historic sites.
Ultimately there needs to be a balance struck in a heritage tourism strategy, taking into consideration the capacity of sites to handle visitors and that consideration should be reflected in marketing and promotion, signage and management.
Protecting and preserving resources involves educating the local population as well. There should be an effort to make citizens aware of their history and of the resources remaining associated with that history. An understanding of history and resources is key to building support for preservation and to establishing broad partnerships to implement preservation plans
In order to preserve and protect historic resources, the resources need to be identified and evaluated before treatment measures can be proscribed. The City of St Augustine has an impressive inventory of historic structures; however this inventory may not reflect the full extent of St. Augustine’s history. Resources that have achieved significance in the recent past, particularly those associated with the Civil Rights Movement, have been threatened or recently demolished. Often such demolitions are done purposely before a resource hits the 50 year mark when it may be considered for the National Register without having to meet the standard of “exceptional importance.”
The city’s preservation ordinance provides for five locally designated districts under preservation review. Review requires a Certificate of Appropriateness for construction activity (excluding interiors) within the locally designated zones and has a proviso for a delay in the issuance of a demolition permit.
There are many individuals and organizations in St. Augustine that are dedicated to preservation or preservation related issues such as the St Augustine Historical Society, the Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine and the Colonial St. Augustine Preservation Foundation. Each of these organizations has a specific agenda and preservation is only focused on a certain area or era. None has a preservation mission or vision that encompasses the entire community.
Community education about preservation is likewise fragmented and generally provided through specific attractions and museums, or is issue specific revolving around current events such as the Bridge of Lions or parking garage controversies. The last preservation plan for the city was drafted in 1986.
Funding for preservation in St. Augustine comes from a variety of sources. However the overall funding for general preservation of resources is scarce. The Department of Heritage Tourism, the City agency which manages the 32 properties owned by the State of Florida including many Colonial Era buildings is charged with being self-sufficient. Grants from the government and from foundations are not always consistent, and there is no dedicated funding source of revenue for Citywide preservation efforts.
1) Amend St. Augustine’s Preservation Ordinance – The city’s preservation ordinance and guidelines should be reviewed and amended. Among the recommended changes are:
a) Local designation and districts should be expanded based on a thorough and comprehensive survey and evaluation.
b) Anti-demolition provisions in the ordinance should be strengthened. Currently demolitions can be delayed, but cannot be denied outright.
c) Specific guidelines should be written for new construction in historic districts addressing height, scale, materials, mass and other characteristics without being proscriptive in dictating styles or promoting a false sense of historic authenticity for new construction.
2) Establish a Citywide Preservation Advocacy Organization – Preservation groups currently form on an ad hoc basis to support or oppose specific issues. This is an outdated approach to preservation and creates a reactionary instead of proactive approach to incorporating preservation into overall city planning. It is strongly recommended that one citywide preservation advocacy group be formed for St. Augustine. This group could monitor preservation issues in the city, hold easements and covenants, and participate in heritage tourism planning and management by advocating for the safeguarding of historic resources.
3) Address Carrying Capacity for Historic Sites and Infrastructure – Visitors may put a strain on historic sites and the city’s historic infrastructure. This can be addressed through educating visitors to respect the historic resource and targeting marketing to spread visitation throughout the year.
4) Utilize Tourism Income to Preserve Sites – Although historic sites are the primary reason that many visitors come to St. Augustine, most of the revenues they generate do not support the preservation of these sites. Consideration should be given to using some of these revenues for preservation. An example is the city of Grapevine, Texas. The CVB collects $2.5 million annually in bed taxes and reinvests 18 percent of these funds in preservation. These funds are leveraged with other private investment dollars and distributed through the Grapevine Heritage Foundation. The funds have restored the Main Street district, as well as a 1901 railroad depot, which serves as a museum and Visitor Center. This may require a change to the authorizing legislation for Tourism Development Taxes, however it would insure a stream of revenue to protect the resources which attract the visitors who pay the tax. The City of Savannah has a similar fund.
5) Improve Stewardship of Collections – St. Augustine has remarkable collections of artifacts that helps tell the city’s history, particularly those recovered through archaeological excavations. Stewardship of collections should be addressed to ensure that appropriate conservation standards are in place, particularly as it concerns basic issues such as climate control and storage. A professional curator or conservator should be retained to assess, evaluate, and make recommendations about all of the collections found at museums and historic sites.Marketing St. Augustine
St. Augustine/St. Johns County VCB Marketing Plan
The St. Augustine/St. Johns County VCB has a thorough, aggressive marketing plan designed to bring visitors to the region and to generate significant economic impact. The VCB faces high expectations to accomplish these goals because of the area’s dependence on tourism as its major economic engine.
Although the National Trust team was unable to secure a meeting with VCB leadership as part of its site visit, two documents are available on the VCB web site: the VCB Marketing Plan and the results of a recent Heritage Tourism Study. An evaluation of these documents provides insight into the strategy, focus, and expenditures that are designed to attract visitors to the area. Following are observations and recommendations regarding these two documents.
The Role of Tourism in St. Augustine/St. Johns County
According to economic data, tourism is the largest economic sector in the area, accounting for 11 percent of the work force and one-third of the county’s sales tax revenue. A Local Option Tourist Development Tax (LOTDT) of 3% is added to accommodations, generating approximately $2.6 million annually. Funds are used in three ways:
1) 40% is used for advertising and promotion
2) 30% is awarded as grants to cultural organizations and special events
3) 30% is used for beaches and recreation
The VCB is a relatively new organization, forming in 1995 for the purpose of promoting St. Augustine and St. Johns County. The VCB is a nonprofit, membership organization. The stated mission is to position St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and The Beaches as a heritage-based experience also offering beaches, golf, and a variety of experiences for every member of the family. The overall objective is to increase the total number of visitors and their length of stay.
The VCB marketing plan identifies eight target audiences for marketing efforts: families, couples, heritage tourists, nature tourists, golfers, active seniors, meetings/incentive planners, and tour/group planners.
Overview of Perceptions
The VCB’s research shows that the area is perceived as being family friendly, safe, reasonably priced, offering a good choice of accommodations and restaurants, and located near many sites and attractions. A negative perception is that there is not enough to do at night. The VCB SWOT analysis also identified St. Augustine’s “past reputation as a tacky tourist town” as a weakness.
In evaluating the strengths of the area, St. Augustine tops the list, followed by the beaches. The major identified threat is that the area could lose its uniqueness due to poor development or lacking of planning.
A newly created marketing theme, See Different Things, See Things Differently, has been unveiled by the VCB. The theme is intended to convey the multitude of activities available in the area and is designed for use in attracting visitors with many different interests ranging from sports to history.
Research of visitors to St. Augustine/St. Johns County shows that more than 50 percent of visitors are couples or parties of two. Findings in the heritage tourism study revealed similar statistics: 58 percent were traveling in groups of two. Families make up 25 to 30 percent of visitors. The average age of visitors is 45. Top states of origin are Florida and Georgia (summer) and New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (winter). The heritage tourism study also identifies some six million visitors annually to the region, including overnight and day travelers. Of these, 88 percent list general sightseeing and 80 percent list visiting historic sites and museums as the activities they most frequently participate in.
According to the VCB, a total of $933,000 of a $2.283 million budget is spent on advertising. It should be noted than in addition to advertising, marketing efforts to targeted audiences include a variety of tactics ranging from familiarization tours for travel writers to generate positive media coverage, attendance at consumer shows in major markets in Florida, North Carolina and Atlanta, offering web site history contests that award trips to the winners, and promoting the area to tour operators at major travel trade shows.
In reviewing the VCB marketing plan, several observations, and recommendations are offered. These include:
1) Efforts should be made to distribute the visitors more evenly among the sites. The stated objective of the VCB is to increase the overall number of tourists to St. Augustine and St. Johns County. While this is a generally accepted objective for most tourism organizations, in this case the objective should be weighed against three major factors:
i) Carrying Capacity – Many of the heritage resources in St. Augustine are fragile and irreplaceable parts of the city’s history. There are limits to the number of visitors that they can accommodate without damaging the resource. That limit should be defined and the visitation numbers examined in that light.
ii) Current Visitation – Although there has been some discussion about the accuracy of the estimate of six million visitors annually (as stated in the heritage tourism study), there is no doubt that visitation to St. Augustine numbers in the millions. For a town of less than 12,000 people, this places a tremendous burden on city services and infrastructure.
iii) Quality of Life – There is currently a struggle between wanting and needing tourism in St. Augustine and the feeling of many residents that tourists have taken over their town. Acknowledging and addressing these concerns is essential for creating a heritage tourism program that “finds the fit between the community and tourism” as stated in Principle Two.
By determining which sites can accommodate more visitors, such as the Spanish Quarter Museum, and which are at capacity, such as the Oldest House, marketing efforts can encourage visitation to those sites that can accommodate them. Likewise neighborhoods should be examined for their carrying capacity as well and that should be taken into consideration when attempting to distribute visitors.
2) Target Funds and Advertising
The distribution of advertising funds should be addressed. Demographic information shows that couples account for 50-58% of travelers, while families make up 25-30%. Approximately $900,000 in advertising funds are targeted in the following manner:
$431,591 – families
$89,600 – Nights of Lights
$87,700 – golf
$70,900 – internet
$58,027 – couples
$50,000 – nature
$30,000 _ meetings
$24,366 – heritage travelers
$14,000 – tour and travel
$7,000 – active seniors
Current expenditures are disproportionately weighted toward families while little is being spent to attract two-party travelers, seniors or heritage travelers. Given the demographics and interests revealed in visitor research, funds – and selected advertising messages and venues – should be significantly adjusted to better reflect the realities of the St. Augustine/St. Johns County audience.
3) Increased Targeting of Heritage Travelers – By targeting heritage travelers for visitation, the concerns outlined above may be effectively addressed because of the characteristics of these travelers. A Travel Industry Association study in 2001 provides an appealing picture of heritage travelers:
i) Cultural Heritage Travel is Increasing – The volume of cultural heritage travel in 2000 was up 10 percent from 1996.
ii) 2/3 of U.S. Adults Visit Heritage Sites – This translates into 92.7 million travelers.
iii) Cultural Heritage Travelers Extend Stay – On average, 4.7 nights away from home compared to 3.4 nights for all other U.S. travelers. They are more likely to stay in a hotel, motel, or B&B. A recent study found that 30 million U.S. travelers lengthened their trips specifically because of heritage or culture. The percentage of travelers who stayed two or more extra nights jumped from nine percent in1998 to 26 percent in 2001.
iv) Spending – Heritage travelers stay longer and spend more money; on average $631 compared to $457 for all U.S. travelers.
v) Shopping – 44 percent of heritage travelers include shopping compared to 33 percent of all U.S. travelers.
vi) Like Variety – 17 percent of cultural heritage travelers take part in four or more activities as compared to 5 percent of all travelers.
List of Recommendations
1. Establish a St. Augustine Heritage Tourism Task Force
2. Hold a Series of Facilitated Working Sessions
3. Develop a Communications Strategy
4. Establish a Lead Agency as a Clearinghouse
5. Invite Residents to Voice Concerns and Suggestions on Accommodating Visitors
6. Research How Other Cities Manage Tourism and Maintain Quality of Life
7. Develop a Tourism Management Ordinance
8. Overhaul Visitor Center Management and Operations
9. Conduct an Interpretive Assessment for St. Augustine
10. Establish Regular Assessment for Historic Sites
11. Document and Interpret All of St. Augustine’s History
12. Develop an enhanced Self guided for St. George Street
13. Improve Signage and Wayfinding throughout the City
14. Devise a system for denoting authentic experiences
15. Amend St. Augustine’s Preservation Ordinance
16. Establish a Citywide Preservation Advocacy Organization
17. Address Carrying Capacity for Historic Sites and Infrastructure
18. Utilize Tourism Income to Preserve Sites
19. Improve Stewardship of Collections
20. Efforts should be made to distribute the visitors more evenly among the sites.
21. Target Funds and Advertising
Establish/Appoint Task Force
Within 1.5 months to 12 months
Facilitated retreat– 2 days to include introductory session, background material, review of this study, components of a good tourism management plan, best practices and overall goal setting.
Additional meetings should be scheduled to address specific topics such as interpretation and authenticity, planning and zoning, visitor services, advocacy, and marketing
Within 1.5 to 3 months
Establish a communications policy and establish a clearinghouse for cultural heritage tourism information
Within 6 months
Conduct a local survey about heritage tourism concerns and observations (perhaps with help from the newspaper) and publish the results
Regular meetings some working meetings some open meetings. There should be one public meeting early on in the process to establish the fact that this is not a “closed door” group type of group.
Within 12 months
Research other cities’ tourism management programs (including visits)
Within 15 months
Work with advisors (city attorney, etc) to see what strategies from other locales are legal in St Augustine
Within 18 months
Compile goals and action steps from planning process into a draft plan. Make formal recommendations with a draft tourism management ordinance and plan (to include a funding structure and sources) through public meetings, news releases and speaking engagements
Within 24 months
Develop plan and schedule for implementation of recommendations
Visitor Information Center monthly car counts
City of St Augustine, Department of Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism, Mission, Goals and Objectives, January 2001, as developed by the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee (for the resort area)
City of St Augustine Visioning Plan (1995)
City Sign Ordinance as contained in the Code of the City of St Augustine
Heritage Tourism Signage (way finding) Plan
City of St Augustine Design Standards for Entry Corridors
City of St Augustine Parking and Transit Circulation Plan (Parking Plan)
Local Historic Preservation Ordinance and HARB guidelines
Heritage Tourism Study St Johns County, Florida, prepared by the University of Florida Center for Tourism Research and Development (2002)
Travel Industry Association of America http://www.tia.org
City of Charleston ordinance, Chapter 29 Tourism
Lancaster County’s Heritage Tourism program http://www.padutchcountry.com/heritage/index.asp
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors & Convention Bureau website