With the long history of tourism starting with the original sulphur springs that prompted the creation of the town of Russell Springs, long has Russell County received its bread and butter by its ability to draw teeming crowds of summer funseekers and give them a quality vacation spot to get away from the big cities.
Love them or hate them, the tourists are coming. They are planning their trips, they are making their reservations. They are currently arguing with their in-laws over who left who's cooler back at the fishing shack when they were here last year.
But some of these tourists are going to be a little different this time around. They're going to be coming along with a plethora of tiny devices and gadgets. They'll be looking for available power outlets so they can charge laptops while they shop. They will be getting frustrated and inconvenienced by the lack of open WiFi hotspots.
These are people who have become accustomed to widespread free wireless internet access. Malls, gas stations, libraries, coffeeshops, restaurants, hotels... when driving through St. Louis last week it was simply astonishing how many signs all over the place proclaimed free wireless internet. Its getting so saturated that you can likely surf Flickr at the dentist's office while you wait for your root canal.
I actually got the chance to use my laptop "in the wild" at a gas station in Mulberry Grove, Illinois at around 1 AM when we were on the way back from the concert (which was awesome). I simply booted up and connected to their wireless network which had the SSID of "Welcome to CC Food Mart". Using their WiFi I was able to use Google to find a campground nearby where my wife and I could set a tent and catch some much needed rest. And when we got there, the campground had free WiFi. I didn't try to connect to it though, we were pretty worn out.
With more WiFi equipped handheld devices becoming widely used such as Skypephones and Mobile Internet devices a.k.a. "MID's" like the Nokia n810, its getting easier and easier for people to communicate with and through the internet. With two Skypephones at coffee shops on opposite ends of the planet you can bacially have free Starbucks-to-Starbucks communication indefinately. Or at least until all the caffeine gives you an anurism. Alexander Graham Bell would be proud.
The younger generation is really poised to capitalize on this sort of connectedness. With cool phones and MID's becoming the new status symbols of highschools across the nation, these kids are one tech-savvy crowd. And enterprising business owners in Russell County should take note of this. Because these are the tourists of the future. They'll pick a WiFi equipped restaurant over the competition because at that restaurant they can grab some great food AND they can check on their Ebay auctions. And they'll stick around a little longer as well, grabbing a dessert and another cup of coffee while they grab the latest Doppler radar images from Weather.com so they know what the weather will be like for the trip back home.
Hotels you better listen up too! For the future tourist, being able to connect beats out coffee and donuts... er.. *cough* continental breakfast... any day of the week. Being able to offer your customers free WiFi means you are connecting them to their online lives. Creullers just cannot compare.
From the tourists perspective they can email the pictures of lil' Billy catching his first fish to Grandma in less time than it used to take to drop off the film. When on the lake these folk want to feel like they are roughing it. But when they come back to town for supplies, they want the conforting embrace of civilation.
If your business already has open WiFi available, be sure and advertise it loud and proud. It could really be a big boon to your business. If your business doesn't offer open WiFi, perhaps you should consider whether it is something that your customers would appreciate. Its cheaper than you think. If your business already has an internet connection, adding a wireless router can be very inexpensive. Even as little as $50. And the possibility of greatly increasing your business's "coolness" factor for as little as $50 is something you can't afford to disregard.
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