The Road Ahead: An International Partnership

Published by The Bee News

July 17, 2018

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Diminutive Atlanta, Illinois has a business district that is about four

blocks square. Several years ago the predominance of empty store fronts left little doubt that this was an old farming community where a bright and promising future was but a distant memory. Seizing on the towns primary asset, a connection with Route 66, Bill Thomas initiated an ambitious campaign that included innovative government-private partnerships, facade restoration projects, and business development incentives. Route 66 was the common denominator. Fast forward to the 2018; the business district is thriving, the occupancy rate of buildings has soared, and in one 24 month period the community experienced a double digit increase in sales tax revenues.

In the summer of 2016, at the first European Route 66 Festival in Ofterdingen Germany, the Route 66 International Advisory Group was established with Dries Bessels as chairman.

Bill Thomas is now the chairman of the Route 66: Road Ahead Partnership, a modern incarnation of the original U.S. Highway 66 Association that was established in 1927 to serve as a quasi chamber of commerce for the Route 66 corridor. The partnership was born of a conference in Anaheim, California that was facilitated by the National Park Service and the World Monuments Fund. To date the embryonic organization has spearheaded legislation to have Route 66 designated a National Historic Trail, worked toward passage of a Route 66 centennial bill in congress, facilitated a series of town hall meetings along the highway corridor, established an international advisory group to coordinate promotion and marketing, and assisted the National Trust for Historic Places with development of an innovative media tour to build support for national trail designation. This tour will be at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman, Arizona on the afternoon of July 29. 

Now the organization is moving forward with an ambitious international project.  “What challenges face Chinese tourists when traveling Rt. 66? What do Czechs need along the way? What do Frenchmen want when traveling the Mother Road? The Rt. 66 Road Ahead Partnership is interested in the answers to these and other questions, with the goal of improving the Rt. 66 experience for international travelers. To get those answers, the Rt. 66 International Advisory Group, established by the Rt. 66 Road Ahead Partnership, is undertaking its first major project, an “International Route 66 Travelers Survey”.

The Survey will be tested at the Route 66 European Festival taking place August 10-12, 2018, at Zlin in the Czech Republic. Following this pilot project, the survey will be launched internationally, so visitors from around the globe can share their opinions. The survey will be conducted through the end of 2018, with results gathered, analyzed, and reported approximately a year from now.

Rt. 66 supporters presenting and testing the International Route 66 Travelers Survey at the European Rt. 66 Festival include Zdenek Jurasek, Dries and Marion Bessels, and Jim Hinckley. Jurasek is a long-time Rt. 66 promoter from the Czech Republic who helped translate the survey into his native language. The Bessels translated the Dutch and German versions of the Survey. Dries Bessels is chairman of The Road Ahead Partnership’s Rt. 66 International Advisory Group and also helped draft questions for the Survey. Well-known Rt. 66 author from Arizona, Jim Hinckley, will help promote and help conduct the Survey at the European Route 66 Festival.  Jim is also a member of the Road Ahead Partnership’s Economic Development Working Group.

Often hailed as one of the most famous roads on the planet, Route 66 is a perennial favorite destination of international travelers from around the world, including Europe, Australia, Asia and, North and South America.  To help ensure visitors have a positive experience, the Rt. 66 International Survey asks about the biggest challenges travelers face, inquires about what Americans should know or better understand regarding international visitors, and queries what specific things would make it easier for international visitors to travel Route 66.

Established in 2015 with the support of the National Park Service and the World Monuments Fund, The Route Road Ahead Partnership’s mission is to revitalize and sustain Route 66 as a national and international icon through partnerships focused on promotion, preservation, research and education, and economic development.”

Author Jim Hinckley accepts an award from the German Route 66 Association at the first European Route 66 Festival.

Author Jim Hinckley, a Kingman resident and creator of Jim Hinckley’s America, is an original board member of the Route 66: Road Ahead Partnership and currently serves on the organizations Economic Development Working Group. He is also a tourism development consultant that is currently working with Grand Canyon Caverns and the City of Cuba in Missouri, a community he will be representing at the second European Route 66 Festival. At this historic event he will also be promoting the new Kingman Tourism initiative that is being developed by Steve LeSueur of MyMarketing Designs.

For more information about the survey or Route 66: Road Ahead Partnership –

Bill Thomas, Chairman, Rt. 66 Road Ahead Partnership

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