When it comes to marketing Clermont County as a tourist destination, Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mark Calitri is master of the game.

Mark Calitri CDME 2016 press photoHis focus is on identifying key tourist attractions in the county and marketing them. As part of this effort, he recently spent two-plus days traveling Clermont County with an “experience guy” secret shopping for potential tourism destinations.

“You don’t’ realize how big (the county is) until you spend two days and two tanks of gas driving it,” Calitri said.

During their travels, he said, they visited key county attractions.

“We were at the Cincinnati Nature Center, Jungle Jim’s, the Tri-State Warbird Museum,” Calitri said. They also visited the various Underground Railroad sites throughout the New Richmond area.

Part of the idea of destination tourism for Clermont County is to identify regional partners in order to bring visitors to the county, he said. For example, people visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati might also be interested in visiting the New Richmond area to see and experience actual stops for the Underground Railroad. They also might enjoy visiting Ulysses S. Grant’s birth place in Point Pleasant.

The CVB will receive a report resulting from the secret shopping trip sometime in October and from it make plans.

Planning is critical for successful destination marketing. The Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a destination marketing organization with a goal of increasing public awareness of travel and tourism opportunities in the county and stimulating interest.

To improve his efforts at the Clermont CVB, Calitri invested two years in a program to earn the Certified Destination Management Executive designation. The program he completed is the only integrated executive program specifically designed for the destination marketing industry.

While Calitri was glad to have received his certification and the knowledge he gained from the program, he walked away with something even more valuable – connections.

During the program’s two years, Calitri said he interacted with other professionals in his industry from across the country. Through his participation in the program, he said, he raised the profile of the Clermont CVB and increased its exposure.

“I’ve also brought back all this knowledge from all these different disciplines to our CVB,” Calitri said

With the knowledge and connections and great planning in place, the Clermont CVB is poised to make great things happen, he said.

Right now the Clermont CVB has three areas of its strategic plan on which it’s focused. The first area involves a study of the county’s various sports complexes. Second is looking at whether the Clermont County market is ready for additional hotel rooms. And finally, the Clermont CVB is looking at experiential tourism opportunities like the Underground Railroad.

When all of this is pulled together it will create the Clermont County brand, Calitri said. With the brand identified, the marketing can truly begin.

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