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Tourism assessors go undercover in Houghton

HOUGHTON — To see an certain area through fresh eyes, ask a first-time visitor.

That’s the idea behind the initial Impressions program, where assessors search for a town incognito to see a town as a tourist would, relay their findings then.

Members of the Houghton government and local business community heard the report at a presentation at the Bonfire Grill Tuesday.

Tuesday’s presentation is merely one section of what’s hoped to become a longer collaboration, said Will Cronin, educator in community and tourism development with the Michigan State University Extension.

“We usually do not intend to can be found in and say, ‘That is everything that’s wrong in Houghton, and all the best with it,’” he said. “We’re here to be your resource in the years ahead as you pursue some options to boost things linked to tourism development in Houghton.”

Four assessors, in addition to a separate youth team, in August and September visited in your community.

Houghton’s waterfront stood out as a significant asset, as did the vibrant downtown, usage of outdoor recreation and historical story.

The team detailed some negative experiences, such as for example hit-or-miss coustomer service, high-speed traffic through the downtown and too little pedestrian infrastructure.

In some cases, the assessors split. One praised the downtown as “interesting and alive.” Another said the entrance to the downtown from U.S. 41 had much concrete rather than enough green space too.

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The team’s overall position on Houghton was a rave. Associates summed up their opinion of the destination with statements like “today’s, downtown steeped in American history&rdquo lovely; and “plenty of hidden gems.”

The report offered ideas for business, recreation and community. An exercise series could teach businesses which tourism assets to market, and steps to make visitors feel welcome. The populous city may possibly also make use of the waterfront by highlighting places to rent kayaks nearby, the report said.

City Manager Eric Waara said the full total results can explain areas for improvement, and assets the populous city didn’t know it had.

“It’s thought-provoking certainly, and I believe we’ve got lots of low-hanging fruit on the winter we are able to work on to handle plenty of this in the spring,” he said.

A deeper dive in to the total results may be necessary to find out the severe nature of the problems, Waara said. One negative observation from an assessor pointed to having less recycling containers in the populous city.

“Could it be that they’re don’t assume all 50 feet, or could it be they couldn&rsquo truly;t find one?” Waara said.

Kelly Etapa of the Suomi Restaurant said the presentation painted a precise picture of the region likely.

“It allows us to know our strong points, disadvantages, allows us to know our good and bad,” he said.