At this time last year, Branson was on track for $350 million in developments. How’s 2017 shaping up?
The last four years, we have seen year-over-year growth, breaking all of our growth records. Last year was unique in the fact that we were tracking over $350 million in announced development. We don’t have a number for release yet, but we will have another number for what 2017 holds. We are confident it’s going to be a very strong number. Branson is in growth mode; it’s in development mode. Current attraction and show owners are putting new product on the market. You can see the transformation, upgrades and enhancements in the entire community.
Some haven’t started yet. What’s the progress on The Alley development at Grand Village?
That is a strong area of the strip for visitor traffic and opportunity. The Alley, we hope, will get under construction sometime this year. It has plans for everything from a hotel to a brewery to more family fun.
Springfield has had a spate of brewery openings. Can Branson sustain another?
Today’s visitor expects it. You hear, “Hey, what’s the local brew here?” They are looking for a beer or moonshine. Currently, we have the moonshine thing taken care of, but when it comes to brewery options, there are only a couple small ones.
One of the biggest on tap is the $100 million Highway 76 streetscape project. How will that impact visitors?
There is no doubt the Highway 76 Revitalization project is critical for the long-term health of our community. It really is in need of attention. We are no different than other tourist destinations; it is time for some attention to our main destination.
With all these new attractions, is Branson’s persona moving away from a music city?
The foundation will always be live music. Moving forward, it’s digging deeper into the brand we have always had, which is family friendly, and seeing more investments in all attractions and shows. We’ve always had the bones of being family friendly and we always will, but what you’re seeing is a deeper dive into that brand.
How does that change the CVB’s marketing message?
We are going to continue digging deeper and re-educating people on what Branson is. Branson is known for live entertainment, but there is more to do. We’ve done focus groups in St. Louis and Kansas City and many times those folks don’t even know there is a theme park here or outdoor-related activities. The goal is to increase visitation overall. It’s job security in a way. It’s our role to penetrate into other markets what Branson has to offer. No matter how many millions of dollars we spend marketing, it still amazes me that people didn’t know of Silver Dollar City here.
What are visitor numbers for last year?
Visitation has been up year-over-year for four years straight now. There is no turnstile on the highway, so to say I know exactly how many visitors come into the Branson market – I couldn’t tell you that. But we do have a formula that we’ve used for a long time that other markets like Orlando use. It tells us we have had growth – 10 percent last year – and we know the baseline is strong. That number ranges between 8 million and 9 million.
Jeff Seifried is president and CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com.