The Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways Commission, along with the Americas Byways Resource Center, recognized the need for a study that would provide a basis for comparison for future studies. This study was commissioned by the Americas Byway Resource Center (then known as the National Scenic Byway Resource Center) in 2002 to determine the impact of designated National Scenic Byways on awareness, economic activity and area use. This study was designed to provide a baseline for a later, more comprehensive look at Americas Byways in the State of Colorado.
The eight byways evaluated in this study have undergone multiple designation
changes in the last decade, the latest of which was a change in the national
brand from National Scenic Byway to Americas Byway
in 2003. A change in any product name affects brand recognition, even in
a well-known product. As this study investigated the brand equity of the
former name, we will use National Scenic Byway when referring
to the study and its results in the interest of clarity.
The purpose of this study was to explore whether the designation of National Scenic Byway had impacts along the byways. There were multiple objectives for the study:
1. To develop a process and products to look at measuring byway users and their preconceptions.
2. To provide a survey template for other states to follow when conducting their own byway audits, in an effort to ensure the most data integrity possible.
3. To gain an understanding of the awareness levels of the National Scenic Byway brand among travelers to National Scenic Byways within the State of Colorado.
4. To determine if there is a relationship between designation and overall
economic health and usage of the corridors immediately surrounding the byway
5. To measure and compare the overall effect of designated National Scenic Byways in a controlled manner, providing a baseline for future studies.
The hypothesis is that the name National Scenic Byway has the strength to attract visitors that would normally not go to these areas if the roads lacked the designation. Therefore, this is essentially an evaluation of the brand strength or equity of the National Scenic Byway brand and the related byway brands for the byways studied.
It is difficult to attribute economic impact from designation status based on survey data. Given survey responses, it appears that there is a relative lack of public awareness of the Colorado and National Scenic Byway Program. In discussions with survey respondents we found that most learned about byway designation through state byway road signs on the route, brochures, and maps picked up en route. Very few respondents knew anything about the byway before they started their trip, or they had learned about the byway route on their last trip through the area, as shown by responses of repeat drivers.
Responses to questions regarding overall satisfaction with the byway driving experience were very positive, and many respondents indicated that they would definitely recommend the byway experience to others.
Given the survey data reported here, it appears that National Scenic Byway designation does not have sufficient brand equity to make an impact on local corridor economies. However, secondary data shows that after state byway designation there were increased traffic and expenditures along the byways. In Colorado, the state byway symbol (Columbine flower) is used to designate all state and national byways. There is not a separate sign for national designation. There are a great many ways to increase public awareness through means of differentiation such as using different signs for levels of byway designation -- and target marketing to increase use of the byways. Together, these strategies could help increase economic activity in the byway corridors. The quality of visitors contacts with local people might also impact economic activity, as may a coordination of effort between the byways to cross-market the byways. The Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways Commission is currently offering grassroots seminars to educate local service people about byways in their area.
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