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Jun 4, 2013 9:33 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Douglas faces tourism drought

DOUGLAS - Businesses are facing hard times within the tourism industry of this border town, forcing them to come up with a variety of ways to lure visitors.

The Gadsden Hotel is one the most iconic historical places in Southern Arizona but it's the diminishing traffic of tourists that is threatening the hotel's survival.

"I worry about the Gadsden," said hotel manager Robin Brekhus. "I just don't want it to be sold off piece by piece."

The hotel was originally built in 1907 and survived the Great Depression, was burned down in a fire years later and then rebuilt.

"We have so much trouble getting people to stay in Douglas," Brekhus said.

The city itself is rich with history but Brekhus said it's still a hard sell to bring some visitors to stay.

"A lot of it is I think people are scared because we're right on the border," Brekhus said.

It's forcing many folks to come up with ways to attract visitors. For example, Hunter Mann is developing an art car museum in some of the older buildings in town.

"Hopefully as we renovate all these old buildings and build the art car museum and get it open to the public.. tourism will rise in this area," Mann said.

As for the negative outlook on the town as a border community, Mann argues that there is a lot of unseen beauty that should attract people to Douglas.

"I think that the good has been under-exaggerated and the bad has been over-exaggerated in being in close proximity to Mexico," Mann said.

As for the Gadsden Hotel, constant empty rooms have forced the place to look for help elsewhere - from a cable television show called "Hotel Impossible." The show spent the last few weeks filming as they helped management modernize its rooms and give tips to improve its marketing image.

Brekhus hopes this will create positive change and attract folks curious about the history-rich hotel.

"You know maybe somebody will see it and say 'Hey, let's take care of that beautiful old girl'", she said.

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