It’s hard to be critical when someone does something for you that is sincerely meant as a nice gesture, but it actually does you more harm than good. You just say, “Thank you,” and move on. In this case though, someone needs to point out the kindness of the Flint RiverQuarium’s offer of a $5 admission cost for residents of Albany and Dougherty County as a foolish effort. Now before everyone, including my good friends that work there, start calling me Scrooge, give me an opportunity to explain.
Why do we even have a multimillion-dollar fresh-water aquarium in downtown Albany? Is it there to give us locals something to do? Partly, but that’s not its primary mission. It is supposed to be one of the crown jewels in attracting visitors — dare I say the word: tourists — to our fair city. To come up with discounts and gimmicks to get us locals coming through the doors again and again, does nothing to grow our local economy. It is simply moving money from our wallets to theirs. No new dollars are generated for Albany this way.
We are already paying for this facility through local government support. To “lure” (sorry) us in with a special holiday “Thank you, Albany” discount, is just taking more of our money, even if it is only $5. If they want to thank us, let us in for free during the special period. The staff still has to show up, cut on the lights, and feed the fish, whether anyone pays to get in or not.
Then, while us Albanians that are already “on the hook” (sorry, again), for the operational costs of the RiverQuarium via our taxes, are there enjoying ourselves and adding the hustle and bustle of a holiday crowd, offer the five dollar deal to residents of Macon, Columbus, Tallahassee, even nearby Tifton, Thomasville, and Moultrie. There is a very good chance that unlike us, who will most likely eat and sleep at home, some of these out of town folks will have a meal here, and perhaps, just maybe, they will stay the night to see some of our other attractions or holiday offerings. That is the whole point of building the thing!
Reaching out to our sister cities in the region with such discounts does the people of Albany a lot more good than shaving a few bucks off our ticket price. It brings new dollars into the local economy. And what a better time than to offer it while visitors from out of town are probably coming here to shop. Tell me the local retail businesses would not love that kind of kind gesture.
Sure, it would take a little something called promotion and marketing to those areas, but it can be done and it can be done in a cost effective manner. This is the information age, and I know the staff at the RiveQuarium. They are some very talented marketing people. So, RiverQuarium, if you want to show how thankful you are for the support of Albany and Dougherty County, don’t waste this good idea on us, use it on the outside world and draw them into your “net” (sorry, last time, I swear). We need the new money, not the discount.
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant. Find him online at AlbanyOnPoint.