11/30/17

2017 Speaker Agenda

2017 Highlighted Sessions and Speaker's Bios
Return to Nebraska Tourism Conference page

TUESDAY, OCT. 17 - Casual Business Attire
Keynote Session 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM              
♦ "Tourism in the United States" 
     -Nan Marchand Beauvois of US Travel Association


Tourism in The United States: Learn how U.S. Travel works every day to protect the interests of the U.S. travel industry.  U.S. Travel represents members through a coordinated, cohesive strategy to communicate the industry’s concerns and priorities to elected and appointed federal officials. They are also the authoritative leader in travel research providing statistical data, published articles and economic impact studies to influence important travel policies and to assist you in strategically planning your marketing efforts, efficiently spending your travel promotional funds and making better educated business decisions.

Nan Marchand Beauvois is a strategic leader with more than 25 years of travel industry experience. Her successful career has been built on the personal tenets of creativity, passion and entrepreneurial thinking. Her innovation and strategic leadership were responsible for creating branded products and promotions that were engaging, imaginative, effective and able to increase the bottom line of both top destinations and Fortune 500 ravel companies.  Nan has been recognized two years in a row as one of Successful Meetings’ 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry.

Prior to joining U.S. Travel she was the executive director of Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau, responsible for branding the city as a year-round business and leisure destination, beyond the Rose parade and Rose Bowl, in the competitive Los Angeles market.  Concurrently, she led an aggressive sales program for its expanding convention center. Prior to joining the DMO world, Nan spent 15 years at Universal Hollywood, her last position being vice president and sales.

She has lent her skills to industry associations and has served as a member of U.S. Travel’s IPW Planning Committee, California Travel and Tourism Commission International Marketing Advisory Committee, the national Tour Associations marketing Committee, TTRA Board member, the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board Marketing committee and was a long-term board member CalTravel, where she served as chair in 2000-01.

Nan attended the University of California at Los Angeles, studying political science/international relations and romance languages. She is fluent in French and conversational Spanish. She lives in Arlington, VA. with her husband and son.

Breakout Sessions  2:00 PM to 3:15 PM               
♦ How to Tap into Group Tours 
     -Micheal Collins, Nebraska Tourism Commission Group Tours


Tap into Group Tours:  The multi-billion dollar group tour market is ever changing, and this session will show you what you can do to bring group operators to your attraction, community or area. You’ll learn the tricks of the trade to make yourself “group ready,” but also how you can work with the Nebraska Tourism Commission’s group tour manager. If you’ve always wanted to get into the group market, this session is for you.

Micheal Collins has been the group tour manager for the Nebraska Tourism Commission since 2012 and since then has worked to market and promote the state to group tour operators across the U.S. and Canada. He is a Certified Travel Industry Specialist and has regularly attended a number of group related conventions, including American Bus Association Marketplace, National Tour Association Travel Exchange, Select Traveler Conference, and Travel Alliance Partner’s TAP Dance. Micheal has had experience in creating group tour itineraries and has worked with DMO’s, attractions, and other tourist entities to make them “group ready.”

                                                     
♦ Re-creating Authentic Downtown Communities
     -Dan Senftner, CEO Destination Rapid City


The creation of a central gathering space is an economic catalyst for downtown communities. Tourists and regional visitors seek out authentic experiences and are increasingly looking for “where the locals are.” In this session, learn how to successfully incorporate a central plaza into your downtown, foster community pride, increase tourist spending and capitalize on downtown revitalization projects.  This same session will also be offered at 2:15 pm on October 18.  Dan is open to meeting briefly with requesting attendees. Please let him know of your intent to schedule a time with him. 

*** Please note: This session is offered both on Tuesday and Wednesday to provide the opportunity for everyone to hear Dan's presentation. He will share how the creation of a central gathering space is an economic catalyst for downtown communities. Tourists and regional visitors seek out authentic experiences and are increasingly looking for “where the locals are.” In this session, learn how to successfully incorporate a central plaza into your downtown, foster community pride, increase tourist spending and capitalize on downtown revitalization projects.  Dan is available to spend one-on-one time with those that are interested.  Dan will be available the entire conference, so please let him know when you would be available for a 20 minute slot of his time. 

Dan Senftner Bio:
Dan Senftner, President and CEO of Destination Rapid City, has been a Downtown Rapid City business owner for 20 years. He served as Vice Chairman of Destination Rapid City since its inception in 2008, and was named President and CEO in 2010. His passion is in the betterment of Rapid City and the Downtown area, and increasing the quality of life for visitors and locals alike.

Senftner has served on many boards with several organizations in Rapid City including Capital Campaign Manager for the new Calvary Lutheran Church, Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Destination Rapid City, Rapid City Downtown Association, Rapid City Historical Society, the City Task Force for Future Development and the Rapid City Downtown Business Improvement District Board. Senftner also is very involved in the creation and implementation of an updated Downtown Master Plan. He is continually serving as a consultant for many Downtown communities throughout the United States.                                

♦ Turning a Wild Idea into a Successful Business
-Tim Vala, Vala's Pumpkin Patch

Tim, a city boy from Omaha with a Degree in Education and having trouble finding a full-time job in the school systems, had a wild idea that he could become a farmer.  Luckily, he came upon some land he could buy a little at a time, bought a tractor he didn’t know how to drive home and planted fruits and vegetables he didn’t know how to grow.  Research, self-education and perseverance helped him succeed.  Today, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has grown into a 212-acre operation with nearly 55 acres of pumpkins planted every year.  His wife Jan took on the crucial business roles of marketer, merchandise manager, personnel manager and accountant.  Today she works full time for Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and is known to always remember each of the 600+ employees’ names.  Hear their amazing story of how a wild idea became a successful family business that is now slowly transitioning over to the next generation.

Tim Vala Bio:                                                                                      
Tim Vala studied education at Nebraska Wesleyan University, but when he had trouble finding a full time teaching job, he was inspired by his love of gardening to start his own business, a pick-your-own farm. He found some land an older farmer was willing to sell off bit by bit, he bought a tractor he didn’t know how to drive, and he planted fields of fruits and vegetables he wasn’t really sure how to grow. At first he focused on pick-your-own strawberries and ran several corner farm stands in the Omaha area, but after a lot of research and success growing pumpkins he switched to specializing fall attractions. Now heading into its 33rd season, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch is a 6-week fall festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Tim and the Vala family continually work to create a wholesome, family friendly destination where people of all ages can have fun together and make magical memories to last a lifetime. 


Breakout Sessions  3:45 PM to 5:00 PM                                                           

♦ Thinking Outside the Box for Festivals and Events
Garner advice from a panel of four festival/event hosts as they each speak on the organization of, and the challenges they overcame in the events they host.  Find out how they addressed those challenges in order to create a sustainable and prosperous festival.  Learn where each event is headed in the future and go home with first hand knowledge and enthusiam to create/make better your own community's event.   

          -Brenda Leisy, Old West Balloon Fest
          -Stacy Ann Griffin, Nebraska Cigar Festival
          -Deborah Ward, Omaha Craft Brew Campaign
          -David Fudge, Nebraskaland Days


Old West Balloon Fest: The sunrise launch of 18 hot air balloons in 2015 was the first time a balloon launch had happened in Western Nebraska for over 16 years. The balloon event started in 1982 as part of the Old West Weekend. In 1988, 34 balloonists from across the country filled the Western Nebraska sky during the three day event. This year on Labor Day weekend, citizens from across Nebraska and neighboring states will have the chance to marvel at the launch of 30 hot air balloons in Mitchell. After liftoff, attendees will enjoy food booths and vendors, a national music act with a night glow and fun activities for the whole family. The Balloons will launch at the Old Airport in Mitchell Nebraska.

Brenda Leisy received her Bachelor of Arts with emphasis in Marketing from Chadron State College, where she was also named Marketing student of the year in 2006. Brenda started her professional career at Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation (Economic Development) in Chadron, Nebraska, and graduated from the Heartland Economic Development Course.

In 2012, Brenda started her position as the Scotts Bluff County Tourism Director, where she is responsible for promoting tourism in Western Nebraska.  Locally, Brenda is involved with several volunteer organizations including; Co-Chair for the Scottsbluff Celtic Gathering, Platte Valley Attractions, Valley Visions, Marketing Chairman for the Legacy of the Plains Museum, a member of the Monument Marathon Race Crew, and Committee Member of Friends of the Robidoux Trading Post.

Additionally, Brenda is also involved in many state wide tourism organizations including; the Nebraska Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Nebraska Tourism Association, and the Western Nebraska Tourism Coalition.

Lastly, Brenda shares the honor of being named the Scottsbluff Star-Herald Citizen of the Year for 2015-2106 with Old West Balloon Fest Co-Chair, Becky Horne. Brenda also enjoys traveling throughout Nebraska, but more importantly; spending time with family and friends.
 

Nebraska Cigar Festival

Stacy Ann Griffin

Omaha Craft Brew Campaign: Visit Omaha created a collaborative partnership with local Omaha craft breweries to create a new Omaha attraction that would increase visitation and enhance Omaha’s regional image as a craft brew destination.

Deborah Ward, Vice President of Marketing and Communication for the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau, is responsible for the development and execution of marketing and advertising strategies that increase visitor demand and awareness of the city of Omaha. Her team recently won a national Telly award for the “Now Serving Omaha” video campaign.  The video series showcases Omaha’s unique contribution to the national food scene. Her team also won an ADDY award for the “It Happens on Bob” campaign which gave a one-of-a-kind bridge a larger-than-life personality.

Prior to that, Deborah spent 26 years as an award-winning journalist for the CBS affiliate in Omaha. She was recognized by Common Cause of Nebraska for an investigative news story that led to the FDA ban of Ephedra, and was recognized by the Associated Press for an in-depth news investigation into unsafe carnival rides in Nebraska, which resulted in a change in state law.
 

NEBRASKAland DAYS was created in 1965 by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and held in Lincoln for the first 3 years before it was moved to North Platte in 1968. There it joined the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, widely renowned as the world's first spectator rodeo. The festival was named Nebraska's Official State Celebration by the Legislature in 1986. 

The festival runs for 11 days in June, and includes 4 nights of Rodeo, large parades, food events, free family entertainment and ends with a concert series featuring A list entertainment from Country Music. The most recent festival that concluded in June featured the Legendary Alan Jackson, and 2 time male vocalist of the year Chris Stapleton. It drew nearly 90,000 visitors from 40 States. 

David Fudge has been involved with NEBRASKAland DAYS since 2005. He spent 6 years on the Board of Directors prior to being retained as the Executive Director in 2011. David is a graduate of North Platte High School and North Platte Community College. He spent 21 years in broadcast media, mostly in North Platte.

David enjoys contributing to the community, having served a variety of organizations. David currently sits on North Platte's Quality Growth Fund Citizens Review Committee, the North Platte Public Schools Foundation, and he is the current Treasurer of the Nebraska Travel Association (NETA).  He is Past President of the North Platte Ambassadors, Past President of the Nebraska Associated Press Broadcasters Association, serves his Church family as Chairman of the Youth Education Committee, past chair of the Building Committee.

David and his wife Lisa have two daughters, Ellie and Carli, who also enjoy helping with NEBRASKAland DAYS.
                                                
♦ Videos for Tourism Pros- How to Easily Create WOW!       
-Catherine Heeg, Travel in Style Inc.

3, 2, 1 Action!  Video is the newest way to reach more fans and amplify your social marketing.  We’ll focus on providing tips to produce your own videos as well as tools to fire up your imagination.  Learn how to: •Create short videos of still photos •Secrets to Live video •Market your videos socially and amplify your messaging •Capture images and footage that inspire people to travel.  In this intermediate session you’ll walk away with examples, tools, best practices and techniques that will have you integrating a variety of types of video into a variety of social platforms.
 

♦ Use Marketing and Economic Impact Reports to Advance Your Community
-Leon Aliski, Dean Runyan & Associates



Sarpy County Showcase Event at Vala's Pumpkin Patch  6:00 PM to 9:00 PM    
Sarpy County Tourism would like to invite you to be our guests for the evening.  You will be treated to an evening at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch for a catered meal and two bonfires plus the Pavilion.  Sarpy County Tourism is happy to cover the cost for your admission fee and meal. Tim and Jan Vala will welcome us in the Pavilion before dinner is served (6:00-6:15pm) and they are providing passes to anyone who wants to ride the train around the property.

We will be there during their prime season so expect to see lots of guests.  In 2016, Vala’s saw over 300,000 visitors come through their gates in the five weeks they were open.  With over 50 attractions, three live shows daily, it is an attraction you will want to see!  We will experience as much as we can however we will only be onsite a few hours as they close at 9:00 pm.

Since it is an October event, we recommend you bring a jacket and wear comfortable shoes as the terrain is up and down and can be uneven. Bring money if you would like to take home delicious fudge, kettle korn, yummy pies, souvenirs, pumpkins and/or gourds.  Vala’s is located approximately eight miles from the La Vista Conference center. It is an easy drive if you want to take your own vehicle, or plan to hop on a bus provided by Sarpy County Tourism.

We hope you will join us for this fun event that showcases our community.  We are looking forward to seeing you at the 2017 Travel Conference at the La Vista Conference Center.   Linda Revis, Sarpy County Tourism Director.
 

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 18 - Casual Business Attire
Registration Open/Breakfast  7:30 AM                                  
Legislation Update 
8:00 AM to 8:30 AM

  -Andy Pollock                
General Session  8:30 AM to 9:45 AM               
♦ Tourism Powers Economic Development
     -George Zimmermann, Longwood International USA, Inc.

Breakout Sessions  10:15 AM to 11:30 AM             
♦ Social Media 
     -Dave Flugge                                                  
♦ Tourism Signage and Markers
Wayfinding Signage:
     -Matt Neemann, Nebraska Dept. of Transportation
Nebraska Tourism Marker Program:
     -Roger Jasnock, Kearney Visitors Bureau
     -Carol Schlegel, Red Willow County Tourism
♦ Nebraska Through British Eyes
     -Alan Wilkinson, Author 


Lunch  11:30 AM to 12:00 PM            

New Agency Update/General Marketing/ Brand Leverage 
12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
              
Nebraska Tourism Serves, Passport & Marketing Update
     -Erin Wirth, Angela Sears, Jenn Gjerde, Nebraska Tourism Commission
Breakout Sessions 
2:15 PM to 3:30 PM  
  
♦ Earned Media in Travel
     -Trevor Meers, Editorial Content Director, Meredith Corporation
     -Tim and Lisa Trudell, The Walking Tourists Blog
     -Carson Vaughn, Freelance Writer
♦ Re-creating Authentic Downtown Communities
     -Dan Senftner, CEO Destination Rapid City
♦ Update from New Public Relations Agency
General Session 
4:00 PM to 5:15 PM   
             
♦ The Richest Man in Town
     -VJ Smith, Life's Great Moments LLC


SPEAKERS BIOGRAPHIES - 

CATHERINE HEEG

Catherine Heeg, owner of Customized Management Solutions, is a tourism, travel and hospitality industry expert with over three decades experience. Her popular workshops and seminars earn rave reviews and drive results that clients can see in their marketing ROI.

She is committed to helping clients quickly learn the best ways to leverage the power of social media and other relevant marketing tactics. An engaging speaker, workshop leader and social media marketing and communications expert, Catherine delivers proven tools that help companies reach their target audience, differentiate themselves from the competition and achieve authentic visibility that translates into winning results.

Catherine designs and delivers customized interactive workshops with big picture ideas and valuable implementation tips.

She takes the mystery out of marketing by providing the step-by-step guidance that helps clients succeed. Catherine enjoys leading webinars and workshops and consulting with clients to help them build their social media buzz.

Social Media Solutions clients can opt to have their social sites built and maintained by a group of tourism professionals. Coaching and customized programs deliver ongoing market intelligence and support with simple tools and techniques that can be implemented immediately. Outcomes are monitored and results are measurable.

Professionals who are serious about taking consistent, winning actions every day to build their business and achieve measurable results love working with Catherine.

DAN SENFTNER 

Dan Senftner, President and CEO of Destination Rapid City, has been a Downtown Rapid City business owner for 20 years. He served as Vice Chairman of Destination Rapid City since its inception in 2008, and was named President and CEO in 2010. His passion is in the betterment of Rapid City and the Downtown area, and increasing the quality of life for visitors and locals alike.
 

Senftner has served on many boards with several organizations in Rapid City including Capital Campaign Manager for the new Calvary Lutheran Church, Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Destination Rapid City, Rapid City Downtown Association, Rapid City Historical Society, the City Task Force for Future Development and the Rapid City Downtown Business Improvement District Board. Senftner also is very involved in the creation and implementation of an updated Downtown Master Plan. He is continually serving as a consultant for many Downtown communities throughout the United States.

GEORGE ZIMMERMANN
George Zimmermann brings more than two decades of experience in tourism destination marketing and research to the Longwoods team and its clients.

He was the Vice President responsible for Travel Michigan at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation from October 2001 until April 2014.  Under his leadership, Travel Michigan and its advertising agency, McCann Detroit, created and launched the award-winning Pure Michigan branding campaign in 2006, a campaign that Forbes ranked among the top ten tourism promotion campaigns worldwide.  Initially a regional campaign, Pure Michigan became Michigan’s first significant national advertising campaign starting in 2009.   During his tenure, the annual tourism promotion budget rose from $5.7 million to $30 million.


In 2012, George was named one of the “Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Hospitality Sales and Marketing” by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI).   In 2011, the National Council of State Tourism Directors named him State Tourism Director of the Year for his work at Travel Michigan.  Prior to joining Travel Michigan, George served as Ohio’s Tourism Director, and he was named State Tourism Director of the Year in 1997. He is the only person to have received this honor twice.

George served on the U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, the Board of Directors of the U.S. Travel Association and the Board and Executive Committee of the National Council of State Tourism Directors.  He was elected as Chair of the Council four times.

In 2014, George led the effort to create the National Council of State Tourism Directors Alumni Group and was elected the group’s first chair.  He has consulted with and/or presented to the state tourism offices in Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, as well as convention bureaus in Ashville, North Carolina; Green Bay, Wisconsin; the Poconos and York, Pennsylvania.

Before his work in tourism, George spent more than a decade in all phases of broadcasting, including serving as the Statehouse Bureau Chief for the Ohio Public Radio/Public Television Statehouse Bureau.  He was the editor of the situation comedies “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times” in Los Angeles, and he was the technical director for the two pilots of “Austin City Limits” in Texas.

He is the author of three travel-related books and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

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