PLACES is a consulting firm with deep experience and expertise in the design, development, and marketing of tourism destinations, and the communication through media of their unique qualities and marketing messages. PLACES has a special interest in place-based as distinct from entertainment-based tourism, that is, in tourism that invites visitors to share in the unique character of a place and not merely to enjoy themselves at its tourist attractions. Arts and heritage tourism, with its emphasis on experiencing what survives of the best achievements and traditions of a culture, is a subset and part of place-based tourism.
Gary Esolen began his career in the academic world, and served for five years as Assistant Dean in Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences. As a freelance journalist he was published in Newsweek and on the New York Times and Cox wire services. He founded an award-winning weekly newspaper in New Orleans, Gambit Weekly, which is still publishing after almost a quarter of a century. From his desk as publisher of that newspaper in the early 1980’s, when the New Orleans economy took a deep dive because of falling oil prices, he helped to put together a broad coalition of business leaders to market tourism as a means for economic development. Esolen co-chaired the resulting committee, left its board to consult for the organization, and went on to lead the group to permanent funding and a multi-million dollar annual budget, and to a dramatically successful tourism marketing program that led the recovery of the regional economy. He served as Executive Director of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation for a decade, creating television advertising campaigns that set national standards for measured efficiency, and creating one of the early tourism internet sites including the world’s first (and perhaps still its only) 24 hour a day computer generated simulated live internet music radio station, Radio Free New Orleans. In 2000 he resigned to join with LeBlanc in forming PLACES. Together they have consulted for clients across the United States and in Europe.