Brooks is an expert on tourism branding, development and marketing.
He was in Corner Brook a few months ago as a keynote speaker for an economic development seminar hosted by the municipality.
Brooks was back on Thursday to give a photographic view of Corner Brook through the eyes of a visitor. In his presentation, Brooks showed areas of the city that he deemed uninviting to visitors and the few places that did meet with his approval.
He noted the predominance of drab colours such as beige, grey and brown on buildings throughout the downtown.
“They may have recently painted it, but it still looks like the 1970s,” he said of one downtown building.
He showed a storefront window piled high with cardboard boxes instead of interesting merchandise that might draw a customer in.
He noted the lack of blade signs — signs that are hung perpendicular to the storefront — that would offer anyone walking down the street an idea of what sort of stores were coming up.
He lamented the unkempt properties and the amount of litter he saw on the downtown sidewalks Wednesday — a day when most people walking the downtown core were cruise ship visitors.
“Yesterday, we walked downtown with your cruise ship (visitors) and we were embarrassed for Corner Brook,” he said. “We could hear what they were saying. … What they are seeing is fences that are broken and weeds and cigarette butts everywhere.”
Lamswood is the executive director of the Western Newfoundland Destination Management Organization, which is trying to establish the western region as a world-class tourism destination.
“What you’re getting is some honest feedback from a visitor’s eye,” he said of what Brooks had to say. “Corner Brook is a destination that needs some good, honest feedback and we have to take a look at this with an eye towards what we’re going to do about this.”
One positive thing Corner Brook has in its favour is the potential to capitalize on the lucrative tourism industry, but Brooks said businesses and the municipality in general need to immediately get to work on making it a more attractive and visitor-friendly place to be.
He said for the first time in Canadian and American history, quality of life is what is driving economic development, and Corner Brook needs to take advantage of that to complement what it already has.
“Prior to these years, economic development was always location and natural resources … now it’s quality of life, and tourism promotes quality of life like no other industry,” said Brooks.
Besides some simple things like sprucing up storefronts with better signage and more inviting outdoor spaces, Brooks suggested a development strategy for the downtown area that addresses having a certain mix of businesses that might attract more shoppers and keep them in the area longer.
Lamswood said there are other destinations that were once where Corner Brook seems to be now, and that things can be turned around by communication and collaboration between merchants, the various levels of government and other economic development entities.
“This has been done right in some other jurisdictions and, where they have gotten it right, they are reaping the rewards,” said Lamswood.