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Tourism in Richmond?
November 23, 2002
Richmond’s Economic Development Plan, Goal ED-D states “Diversify the City’s Economic Base,” and Policy ED-C.3 states “Promote Richmond as a destination point for non-residents by building on the City’s unique shoreline and waterfront assets, scenic features, and historical and cultural resources.”

With 32 miles of shoreline and a national historical park in the making, there is no question that Richmond can become a major Bay Area destination for visitors. One of the best examples of the potential for such tourism success is East Brother Light Station, located on one of Richmond’s four islands, which regularly hosts guests from around the world. See the recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle
Lighthouse inspires Brotherly love / Remote setting and gourmet meals -- and foghorn -- make for true bay getaway and the accompanying photos in

Similarly, a census of 430 visitors last year in Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline indicated they came from 29 cities in 7 counties. And the Richmond Art Center has long been a regional draw for artists and people who follow the arts.

When people visit Richmond for recreational or cultural purposes, they usually leave something behind -- money, as they patronize local businesses. Perhaps just as importantly, they take something with them, a new perception of Richmond and the potential and opportunities that exist here. Many whose first exposure to Richmond has been recreationally or culturally motivated have returned to buy homes and start businesses.

What I am going to continue to pitch is a higher awareness among policy makers of the significant potential to capitalize on Richmond’s prospects as a destination city to create jobs, improve business, change our city’s image and upgrade the general quality of life. A number of ongoing projects are critical to this effort, including completion of the Bay Trail and the Richmond Greenway, rehabilitation of the Plunge, preserving and enhancing our historic buildings and districts and creating a Visitor’s Bureau. We also need to restart enforcement of public nuisance and abatement ordinances to ensure that visitors are not shocked by displays of graffiti, public dumping and unkempt property.

Perhaps most critical of all is upgrading the City’s commitment to full recognition and development of the “cultural tourism” opportunities inherent in the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park. Much has been accomplished, with recent developments including the initiation of rehabilitation of the Ford Building, where the visitor center will be located, and the promise, just revealed this week, of a $1 million grant to refurbish the hull paint of the Red Oak Victory. Disturbingly, however, the City administration has failed to come to grips with a detailed long-term plan to coordinate the continued use of the former Shipyard 3 for port purposes while still providing public access and park development opportunities for the historic buildings and dry-dock basins. A good example of this was the recent proposal to place an asphalt plant next to the historic Shipyard 3 Cafeteria building.

Kind of like “real men don’t eat quiche,” there appears to be a mindset among Richmond policymakers that tourism, and especially cultural tourism, is not “real” economic development. However, cultural tourism is the fastest growing sector of the travel industry. On average, visitors seeking a cultural travel experience:
• Spend nearly $200 more per trip than other travelers.
• Spend $62 a day more than other travelers.
• Take longer trips.
• Include multiple destinations and stay 1/2 day longer at each place.
• Have higher levels of income.

Cultural tourism is travel directed toward experiencing the arts, heritage, natural resources, and special character of a place. It attracts travelers who are better educated, more affluent, and have higher expectations for experiences that are both enjoyable and educational. For some tourists, cultural experiences are "value added," increasing the likelihood that they will stay longer or return. Authentic experiences of different cultures are an important factor in travel decisions. Because of the wide range of interests of these travelers, the most successful strategies to attract cultural tourism are regional and thematic. That is, concentrating on a few key stories and interpreting them thoroughly, using a variety of mediums such as interpretive markers, auto tours, the arts, museums and interpretive centers, special guided tours, and outdoor experiences.

If you believe that Richmond should ramp up its efforts to attract visitors and tourists, and especially to reprioritize its support for development of our unique national historical park, let your City Council members know.