Business: Data beats dogma for Williamsburg tourism decisions

WILLIAMSBURG — The Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance announced a program to encourage local hotels, attractions and stores to offer deals in August to help improve what's shaping up to be a soft tourism season.

The fact that the destination needs an "All In For August" promotion isn't good.

What is good is that tourism professionals in the destination recognize that there's a problem and are moving to deal with it sooner rather than later. That's something of a departure from the way things have traditionally been done.

When Karen Riordan took over as president of the Alliance, she said the area's tourism marketing would be "data driven" and flexible enough to make changes mid-season. She's living up to that pledge.

It's a change in that in the past the area's marketing efforts were more "dogma driven."

When I first began covering tourism in the Historic Triangle eight years ago, the area was beaming its pitch into the rust belt, largely ignoring significant metropolitan areas to the south, particularly Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte. Both are much closer than Cleveland.

When I asked why, I was told, "People in the South don't go North for vacation."

Really? I went to the Jersey Shore for vacation last year and I know other people who went to New York, Boston and Maine. So where do people in the South go for vacation — the Gulf of Mexico?

That's an example of dogma. It's one of those things that people continue to say even though they are self-evidently false, like "baseball is 75 percent pitching." They say that because it's easier than thinking.

For those of you who care, baseball is our most symmetrical sport. Every run scored is a run allowed. Baseball is exactly 50 percent offense and 50 percent defense. And pitching only part of the defense — there's still eight more fielders out there with gloves on their hands.

As a general rule, it's better to make your decisions based on data than dogma. And it's better to respond to problems with solutions than tradition.

In looking at the numbers and trying to do something about it sooner rather than later, Riordan is breaking with the practices of the past. If the destination has turned that corner, perhaps that's a positive thing.

With Carl Lum taking over at Busch Gardens a couple of years ago, Riordan taking over the Alliance this year and Mitchell Reiss set to become the new president of Colonial Williamsburg in September, the Historic Triangle will have new tourism leadership in place.

That's not a slap to those who have held those positions in the past. Sometimes new eyes see things that escape those who've been in the trenches a while.

Hopefully, the new leadership will have some new approaches to an old problem — the area's disappointing tourism performance.

Business notes:

Mary Campbell McQueen, president of the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, received the 2014 John Marshall Award, presented by the American Bar Association Judicial Division, Standing Committee on Judicial Independence and Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements. The ABA established the John Marshall Award in 2001 to recognize individuals who have made a positive national impact on the justice system. Eligibility is open to any individual responsible for extraordinary improvement to the administration of justice in the categories of judicial independence, justice system reform or public awareness about the justice system. Past recipients include Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the late former U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin of Alabama and former Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania.

Chef Nancy Geddes, assistant director of culinary services at Williamsburg Landing and president of the Virginia Chef's Association Chapter, was presented the Virginia State Senate resolution by Sen. Tommy Norment honoring the 40th anniversary of the Virginia Chef's Association. The presentation was made during a gala dinner hosted by Waypoint Seafood and Grill and the proceeds were donated to the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank. Other participants in the event were the Culinary Institute of Virginia, Hermitage Technical Center, Kingsmill Resort, and the Williamsburg Inn.

Long & Foster Real Estate's Williamsburg branch announced the following achievements for June 2014 : Top sales agent of the month – Carol Mann; top sales team of the month -The Memorie Munson Team; listing agent of the month - Marley Numbers.

CENTURY 21 Nachman Realty recognized Margaret Angle as June's top listing agent and Courtney Martinez as June's top sales agent for the Williamsburg office.