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“We've had a busy six months.”

With that massive understatement, Wyoming Tourism Board Chair Paul Smith, owner/president, Best Western Hitching Post Inn, Cheyenne, outlined the activities of the nine-member policy board appointed by Governor Dave Freudenthal after the 2003 Legislature created the board with a footnote to the current state budget.

Recruiting and hiring a director for the Division of Tourism, Wyoming Business Council; consolidating the tourism staff back at the South I-25 visitor center/staff offices; preparation of the next biennium budget and investigating the future status of the division highlighted the first half year of the Tourism Board's existence, Smith noted.

In addition to Smith, Governor Freudenthal appointed the following tourism industry representatives to the board, which will function until June 30, 2004: Dave Hanks, executive director, Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce; Clay James, president/general manager, Grand Teton Lodge Company, Moran; Clay Miller, owner, Paradise Guest Ranch, Buffalo; Gene Bryan, executive director, Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, Cody.

Matt Driskill, owner, Devils Tower KOA, Devils Tower; Pat Sweeney, managing partner, Parkway Plaza Hotel, Casper; Trudy McCraken, owner/president, Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson/Fosters, Laramie and Dave Rader, managing partner, The Lodge at Rawlins, Rawlins, who replaced Pam Avery, Casper, when she accepted a new position with her company to Virginia.

“Right out of the box, our first priority was to get a director for the division recruited and hired,” Smith said. “We are absolutely thrilled with the selection of Diane Shober to fill that responsibility. The timing was right. She wanted to return to the region, and we needed a dynamic, experienced leader.”

Smith thanked Tucker Fagan, CEO, Pete Reiss, Chief of Support Services, Wyoming Business Council and Anita Withers, Travel Development Specialist for the Division of Tourism, for their guidance and support during the recruiting process. “They were invaluable,” he added.

Shober, a Gillette native, had worked in Chicago for the past nine years, first as managing director for a Chicago-based dance company and later with the Chicago Convention and Visitors Bureau. Her Wyoming tourism experience included stints as sales director for Tower West Motel in Gillettee and as marketing director for Cam-Plex. She was the team leader in Gillette's successful recruitment of the National High School Finals Rodeo.

“Diane, has proved to be a quick study. She already has a firm grasp of the staff situation, the current and proposed budget, the contracts and the partnerships, and she and the staff are busy preparing the marketing program for the 2004 season,” the board chair noted.

Smith outlined other Tourism Board accomplishments in the first six months of its existence:

  • Directed that the Division staff be consolidated at the Frank Norris, Jr. Travel Center on south I-25 in Cheyenne. The staff had been divided between that facility and the Business Council's office in downtown Cheyenne.
  • Directed that Diane continue to participate in the weekly Wyoming Business Council (WBC) senior management meetings and to stress continued cooperation/communication with the other WBC divisions and with the regional offices. Smith noted that Diane has been invited by Governor Freudenthal to participate in cabinet meetings.
  • Appointed a sub-committee to investigate the future of the Division. Options include recommending that the Division of Tourism be separated from the WBC into a cabinet level agency; stay with the WBC with a separate, permanent Tourism Board; stay with the WBC under the direction of the Business Council. The sub-committee recommended that priority be given to creating an awareness for the need for a permanent Tourism Board and that the Legislature and Governor Freudenthal deal with the status of the agency during the 2005 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature. The sub-committee is also investigating options for appointment districts for the board should it be continued.
  • The board directed Diane to schedule visits as soon as possible in all regions of the state to familiarize herself with the industry and with the resources available to the division.
  • The proposed 2004-2006 biennium budget was reviewed and approved and sent forward to the Business Council and subsequently to the Budget Office.
  • The board elected Smith as chair and Bryan as co-chair.
  • The Board encouraged Diane to re-establish her position as the spokesperson for the Wyoming travel industry.
  • Emphasized that it is the board and staff's combined responsibility to re-build the cooperation and communication within the Wyoming travel industry, with emphasis on lodging tax boards, concessionaires and hospitality industry associations.

“Wyoming has a tourism program that is the envy of the rest of the states, and we want to continue and enhance that status. With an industry board providing policy guidance and directing the development of marketing programs and spending and with the best staff of the 50 states, we are confident that Wyoming will remain a premiere destination and that the Division will remain preeminent within the industry” Smith noted.

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