Newspaper throwing in Omaha

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

In the last week or so, Just about Travel has covered a few of the stranger sports that have grown up as visitor attractions but this one must be the daddy of them all given that 0ver 40,000 people turned up.

Omaha, in the US state of Nebraska, is the home of the Sage, Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world and whose investing capabilities are legendary. Once a year, shareholders in his companies gather in Omaha to hear his words of wisdom. He only has a staff of 25 in his holding company, but one of them  – Carrie Sova – is called event organiser and it is her responsibility to come up with events for the annual shareholders meeting.

Apparently, as a lad, Buffett delivered newspapers. In the US they don’t push them through letterboxes but the tightly rolled papers are hurled onto the front gardens to be collected by the recipients as they step outside in the morning. Buffett claims – according to a story I saw in the Wall St Journal Europe – that he can throw a tightly furled newspaper (no elastic bands or wrapping allowed) onto a lawn without the paper disintegrating due to the effect of wind whistling through the pages or the trajectory.

Apart from this the annual general meetings (AGM’s)  have another unusual role. For two days, there are exhibit booths where people can buy products, some of them which have been tailor-made for the event. These limited editions have a ready market amongst the 35,000 attendees for everything has been made by businesses which are owned by or in which Buffett has invested. On the third day there is a five kilometre race around the streets.

Omaha, last weekend, was taken over by Buffett mania.

Compare the number of attendeed last weekend with those people attending a food show, a music festival or those who visit castles in a year. The newly opened Cardigan Castle is hoping for 30,000 people a year. The Louis Armstrong Jazz Festival in New Orleans hits about the same number. Most AGM’s would count having a hundred people attending as a big number.

Yet here there is what many would consider to be the most boring activity on earth short of watching paint dry. But Buffett has turned it into an event – a three day tourist attraction – by offering visitors something different. It may not cost to attend but Omaha isn’t the easiest place to get to. Many will fly – and at their own expense – stay in hotels and take time of work to go. Isn’t that the definition of a tourist attraction?

Will his next move be to take all the companies in which he has invested and arrange similar AGM’? Will there be Warren E Bufffett Entertainment to rival Disney? Why not Disney invented a new tourism form, why shouldn’t Buffett?

It only goes to show that with a little bit of enterprise –and surely Warren Buffett has plenty of that – you can create a tourist attraction out of almost anything. Except, maybe, watching paint dry.

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