DED/MCB Community Visit
Lamar – April 1, 2016
Initial observations: Lamar offers a variety of services, including access to lodging, dining (mainly chain restaurants, with a few locally owned options) and health care; it has convenient access to interstate highway; the town square is picturesque and home to many businesses; history and agriculture seemingly have prominent roles in the community.
Thoughts about Lamar tourism: During the assessment visit, there was very little discussion about tourism from community leaders and business owners. Lamar is best known as the birthplace of President Harry S. Truman (his birthplace is an official Missouri State Historic Site) and as the place where Wyatt Earp began his career as a lawman. Lamar’s connection to Truman and Earp are celebrated during annual festivals in Lamar. Lamar also has an agricultural museum, the Barco Drive-In Theater, the Plaza Theater, the Barton County Historical Society Museum and a large Super 8 for overnight visitors.
Although history and agriculture play a prominent role in Lamar and Barton County, the county does not have brand messaging to spotlight its tourism assets. Development of a brand that people can connect with Lamar and recognize as being unique to Lamar may help spur travel in the area.
Opportunities: Lamar’s connection to Harry Truman seemingly is its greatest tourism asset. Finding a way to package a visit to the Truman home with the city’s other businesses and attractions may be its best opportunity to increase tourism-related spending. In this presidential election year, there may be events that support visiting Truman sites on a “campaign” trail of sorts, perhaps in partnership with the Truman Library in Independence. Cultural travelers will also want to know about local community history, and the Barton County Historical Society Museum could play a leading role in those efforts.
It also seems imperative that Lamar continues to promote its ties to Wyatt Earp, and advertising/outreach in other communities (those reported include Dodge City, Kan., and Tombstone, Ariz.) is an excellent way to draw out-of-state visitation.
The Lamar Super 8 has an outstanding reputation in the community and has very good reviews on consumer-based sites such as Trip Advisor. When Lamar hosts special events that could lead to visitors staying overnight, that property should be promoted to the fullest.
The Barco Drive-In is popular locally and as one of the remaining few drive-ins in Missouri, it also has potential as a tourism driver. A John Deere museum opened in 2013, but is available only by appointment. Finding a way for the museum to have more regular hours – perhaps along the same operating schedule as the Truman Home – could give visitors another/more reasons to stay longer and spend more in Lamar.
Tourism-related businesses should ensure they are listed on VisitMO.com, the Missouri Division of Tourism’s official website. Having a listing on the site is free, and those businesses that are eligible also are listed at no charge in the annual Missouri Travel Guide (more than 500,000 copies in circulation in 2016). To learn about VisitMO and requirements, please click here.
Promote Missouri Fund: The Barton County Chamber of Commerce has a $150,000 budget to support three staffers’ salaries, chamber activities and regional economic development efforts. The county may consider creating and funding a tourism-specific position charged with marketing the entire county and all of its assets – this would be a county DMO (destination marketing organization). Establishing a DMO would provide Barton County the opportunity to apply for various grant monies – for tourism promotion – through the Promote Missouri Fund. There are programs to support tourism businesses and entities that are not certified DMOs; information about those programs is available only at Industry.VisitMO.com.
Final thoughts: Heritage tourism, with Truman and Earp at the center, seem to be Lamar’s best bets for increasing tourism. Marketing sites and activities connected with those prominent figures can increase the level of awareness people have about Lamar and potentially drive more visitors to the community.
The Barton County Chamber may want to develop a single point of contact with the Missouri Division of Tourism in order to ensure that festivals/events schedules and business listings are provided to MDT in a timely, accurate manner.
One of the community presenters showed a rendering of a “Welcome to Lamar” sign that could be placed at one of the key entry points into the community. That proposed sign depicted a farmer on a tractor, a clear nod to the city’s agricultural roots. This signage may be more impactful if it instead paid homage to the city’s most-famous son, Harry Truman. There’s only one place that can claim to be the birthplace of the only Missourian ever to be elected president, and that fact is what truly makes Lamar unique in the tourism realm.
The chamber may consider development of branding/tag line concepts with community involvement, but more importantly with non-community and potential visitor groups to determine how the brand resonates and encourages visitation.