Out history New Orleans, Boston, Savannah or Charleston? (or even San Antonio)
See what I mean? People choose vacation locations for specific reasons, and the winners are pretty damn dominant. We're stuck as a local/regional "big city" tourism destination like Chicago is for the midwest and Atlanta is for the southeast, with our share of great museums, restaurants, shopping, and a few attractions - but not enough to pull people from across the country - much less the world - to vacation here.
And here's my new insight that came out of the discussion:
From a marketing analysis, there is an unfilled niche, and here's my articulation of it: parents plan family trips, and they often want to educate their kids as well as have fun. There are plenty of opportunities to do this with history - Colonial Williamsburg, Boston, New Orleans, San Antonio and the Alamo, etc. - not to mention Europe. DC is where you learn about our great country's history and political system. The national parks for learning about nature and the environment. San Diego for every type of animal in the mega-zoo (and SeaWorld for aquatic animals).
But there's bit of a hole in the tourism market when it comes to teaching kids about and inspiring them into STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). On a national level there's the Air and Space Museum in DC and a couple of NASA sites (inc. Houston JSC), but it's pretty limited. On a local level it's pretty small science and children's museums. We could aspire to be one of those "must-do" vacations for all families that want to broadly educate their kids. "A DC/Smithsonian of STEM" might be a way to think of it. Maybe that's one mega-museum, or a collection of medium-sized ones. The Astrodome is a huge opportunity, as is the giant empty field to the south of it and the easy rail connection to our Museum District. And we already have a starting pull with Space Center Houston. Build on that, and we can create a differentiated niche from other tourist destinations.
By creating a very future-oriented, big challenge-focused, STEM-based tech/engi/science museum complex (including energy) as a compliment to NASA, we become one of those destinations families will want to visit for the benefit of their kids. I'm not saying they won't also have some fun when they get here (Kemah, Galveston, shopping, eating, etc.), but the core reason they will add it to their vacation plans will be to inspire their kids into STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) - just like I'm sure plenty of DC trips have inspired kids into public service careers.
The short description would be like the National Air and Space museum (the 2nd most popular museum in the world after Paris' Louvre), but covering a broader range of STEM subject areas and giving not just history, but articulate the big challenges facing those fields going forward. The goal is to not just look backward, but inspire kids to study hard so they can contribute to working on the big problems of the future in their careers. The original vision of Epcot might be another example. Include lots of interactivity and summer camps, with school field trip groups on multi-day visits. It should address the Grand Challenges of Engineering, with maybe a wing for each.
I think most of the museum would be the history of engineering and technology, maybe grouped into themes like "transportation", "computing", "health/medicine" (link to the world's largest medical center, anyone?), "energy", etc. but then shifting at the end of their timelines to broad, long-term challenges. The goal is for the kid to get swept up in the great people and innovations of the past and then get them excited about being contributors to future progress.
I wonder if a better name might be "The Museum of Progress", showing how human civilization has advanced with science, engineering, and technology and the great challenges we face going forward.
Definitely take some time to browse the thread - there are some good ideas and graphics from others in there. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on the strategy, the specific museum concept, and potential names in the comments. And if you're one of Houston's political or financial power-players interested in supporting something like this, please drop me an email (tgattis (at) pdq.net).
Tops for global connections, shale gas, new map, regs vs. density, and more
Since it's a short week where people usually don't have a whole lot going on in the office, I thought it'd make sense to do a misc items post this week since people might have more time to follow the links. So here they are:
From the Houston airports newsletter: "On November 16, Houston will become the only city in the Western Hemisphere to offer non-stop flight service to every inhabited continent on the globe, as Continental Airlines launches a non-stop flight between George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Lagos, Nigeria." Close, but not quite true until the United flight to Auckland, NZ starts next year when they get the 787. I guess that means New Zealand counts as part of the Australian continent. So how'd we pull off that distinction? The international energy industry, of course. Plus, SF, LA, and DFW don't go to Africa. NYC, Chicago, and Atlanta don't go to Australia/NZ. That pretty much covers the mega-airport cities of the Western hemisphere. Of course plenty of airports go to Europe, Asia, and South America.
And yes, if you're wondering, I broke all the TED talk rules by packing way too much into my 20 minutes (and apologies in advance for the frequent throat clearing; lesson learned: no ice water before speaking). But I got some very positive feedback from the audience, so at least some people appreciated the difference from the usual TED talk model. The video does a decent job of capturing the slides too (use the bottom right-side arrows to make it full screen), but you can also download a pdf of the slides here. I know 20 minutes is a lot of commitment in the web/blog world, but it really does capture a lot of the key themes from this blog, so if you're a loyal reader, it's probably worth your time (Facebook will still be there for you tomorrow, right? ;-)
Enjoy. As always, thoughts and feedback are welcome in the comments.
Somebody's personal essay on why Portland sucks, specifically mentioning the traffic (from underinvesting in freeways), taxes, and government over-regulation. Normally I try to avoid bashing other cities (and I've actually visited Portland and it's very nice, at least from a tourist perspective), but when cities get too much unvarnished acclaim (Austin, anyone?), I sometimes like to point to alternate perspectives.
"Metro service today has 5-minute intervals between buses and goes nonstop to downtown. The proposed commuter rail line would have 20-minute intervals and stop at 10 stations, then require a transfer to a bus to get downtown."
Finally we'll end with a little humor: how many things can you find wrong with this picture? That is some mighty impressive photoshopping, although I can't figure out *why* somebody went to all the trouble?...
Social Systems Architect, consultant and entrepreneur with a genuine love of my hometown and its people. I cover a wide range of topics in this blog - including transportation, transit, economic development, quality-of-life, city identity, and development and land-use regulations - and have published numerous Houston Chronicle op-eds on these topics. I also co-authored the Opportunity Urbanism study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. I am a native Houstonian, 6th-generation Texan, attended Rice University for my BSEE and MBA, and a former McKinsey consultant and adjunct faculty member with Leadership Houston. I am currently the founder of Coached Schooling, pioneering a transformational new approach for a more effective and engaging 21st-century K-12 education combining the best elements of eLearning, home and traditional schooling. CONTACT EMAIL in no-spam format: tgattis (at) pdq.net - send me an email if you would like to receive these posts via email, or see the Google Groups signup box below.