When trying to attract tourists, the City of Fife is hoping to accentuate its best attributes.
“Fife is a pretty small town,” said Laurel Potter, the city’s economic development and marketing specialist. “We know we might not be necessarily a national or international draw.”
However, Fife does have one thing it can use to lure in tourists — affordable accommodations.
“We have a lot of economical hotels you might not find in some of the other big cities,” she said. “The goal is to just get people to stay and play — and learn more about the area.”
So, to draw people into the city, the chamber of commerce, local hoteliers and city officials are trying to get people to think of the three “C”s when they think about Fife: convenient, close and cost effective.
Traditionally, Fife has tried to collaborate with the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau and the Pierce County Sports Commission, so a large convention is booked in another location, Fife can attract any overflow rooms.
“Regardless of where you stay, as long as you stay in Pierce County we are happy,” said Shauna Lunde-Stewart, interim executive director of the TRCVB. “Ultimately, I think the challenge is figuring out what Fife’s identity is and being able to brand and communicate that. They have done a good job of positioning themselves as convenient, family friendly and affordable. So, it’s taking that to the next level and getting that message out there.”
Mark Horace, general manager of Extended Stay America Tacoma-Fife, said his hotel has already benefited from the city’s partnerships with the tourism bureau and the sports commission. But believes there could be more done to bring people and new hotels to the area.
“I do see there is opportunity for growth,” he said. “I would like people to see Fife as an easy place to stop and rest up and do a little shopping.”
While Horace’s company has experienced some financial hardships, a new ownership group has helped the hotel group emerge from bankruptcy. And they are looking to improve more than the financial situation.
Horace said his three-story, 104-room hotel was built in 1997 and had not undergone any major revisions since then. To help update the property, the ownership group decided it needed a “major, major renovation.”
“They are bringing them back up to par,” Horace said. “It was time, and we are ready to go.”
The hotel will remain open during the remodel, which includes new carpeting, beds and televisions.
Extended Stay America Tacoma-Fife typically doesn’t target the day-tripper, but rather focuses on guests who are in town for longer periods of time. However, Horace believes any activity can only increase business for all the hoteliers in the area.
“Any time you can get tourism to the area it’s a great thing (for) the city and the county as a whole,” he said.
To help get their message out to tourists and meeting planners, Fife recently decided it was best to take a back seat role.
“The ultimate goal would just be to have more people stay in Fife,” Potter said. “We are limited as a government entity. We can’t take them out to lunch or dinner — that would be a gift of public funds.”
But the chamber can use those types of techniques to attract meeting planners.
The Fife Milton Edgewood Chamber of Commerce is the acting visitor information center for Fife. Executive Director Aaron Williams said the city has hired the chamber to specifically greet visitors and have information on its website designed for tourists.
But the chamber has decided it can take on more tourism duties.
“The new role is to actively market the City of Fife as a place to visit with a group or a conference,” Williams said. “The goal would be to attract those meetings and conferences to benefit the local businesses. As we are new to it we are still in the ramp up stage.”
Part of this ramp up stage included the hiring of Kate Hinzman, who will be executive assistant. Her duties include working with the city and learning how to attract small meetings and conferences to the area.
Lunde-Stewart said it’s common for chambers in small towns to take on tourism related activities.
“Ultimately, we all want to work together,” she said. “We are bringing people to the region and the chambers can be the conduits for their specific city.”
Potter said the city is willing to invest in this partnership with the chamber not only because it will benefit local hotels, but also because it could help generate tax dollars. The City of Fife does have a lodging tax, which is earmarked for organizations that will increase tourism activities in the city. Both the visitor bureau and the sports commission have received some of these funds.
The tax also helps support one of the city’s main tourism draws — the Fife History Museum that houses the former Chehalis & Western American Locomotive Co. train engine and caboose.
“The train industry and clubs are huge,” Potter said. “I’m always surprised how many people will travel around the country or world to see a new engine.”
While Williams agrees that Fife has some unique attractions that could appeal to tourists, he said the chamber is most likely going to spend its time trying to attract large groups.
He said meeting planners typically like Fife because of its convenient location along Interstate 5.
“They have less angry people that are lost calling them on their cell phones,” Williams said. “We are looking forward to bringing those people in from other parts of the state and country so we can get more business for the businesses in Fife. Tourism is always about that, getting people to come in from other places and spend money.”
Writer Breanne Coats can be reached at bcoats@BusinessExaminer.com.