Tourism drives the lake. For anyone who has lived at the lake for an extended period, the difference between the Bagnell Dam Strip in January and July is night and day. At the heart of driving tourism at the lake is the Convention and Visitors Bureau. After multiple months positioned as the interim Executive Director, it has been officially announced that Heather Brown will be taking over the reins permanently as Executive Director, as she works with the group to navigate a busy tourist season in 2021 and onward.
According to their website, the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau (CVB) is a membership-based organization supported by over 550 Lake Area businesses in the tri-county region with a mission to promote the Lake. Brown says she took an internship position with the group in college, working with the public relations team for the lake. She says she got used to the work involved with promoting tourism at the lake and fell in love with the concept. After graduation, she took a full-time position as a marketing consultant with the CVB and has been slowly working her way up the ranks.
After eventually working for years under previous Executive Director Tim Jacobsen, Brown took some time away from the job to spend time with her family. The CVB would reach back out to her at the end of 2020 to take over the position in an interim fashion and, as of April 2021, she is now running the position full-time.
Brown believes that her work within the CVB helped in the decision-making process for choosing a new Executive Director. She says that tourism at the lake is unlike any other place and having experience and knowledge of the area is invaluable.
For Brown, the work she does to promote tourism at the lake is second nature. She says she loves the work that she does and that it never feels like she is having to go to work each morning.
“This job doesn’t even feel like work, I enjoy it every day,“ Brown said.
Looking ahead at the quickly approaching 2021 tourist season, Brown says that the expected tourism boom is likely to happen. With Missouri ahead of most states in relaxing COVID protocols, she expects that many of the same crowds will reappear as they look for an escape. She says that the CVB, along with the TCLA, has been researching hotel numbers and have seen that many lodging options have booked full throughout much of the summer. This has all happened even before the CVB has begun its work to promote many summer events.
Brown also pointed out that many businesses and lake municipalities were having record numbers in the early months of 2021, indicating that the trend should continue throughout the rest of the year, leading to another record-breaking summer.
However, Brown also acknowledged that the employee and affordable housing shortage being felt around the lake is also very real. However, she is confident that the lake will rebound. She says the affordable housing issue has been a problem around the lake area for many years and that city governments have continued to plan for ways to solve it. She also mentioned that Missouri isn’t the only state to feel this employee shortage, as many states around the country have felt similar pressure to strengthen local workforces.
“We want to help combat this issue and get the workforce to start moving in the right direction,” Brown said.
Overall, Brown says that this opportunity is a dream come true. Since her time at college, she says this line of work is exactly what she wanted to do and knows that these opportunities are rare to find. She thanks God for helping her move in this direction and is excited to continue helping the lake move its most critical asset forward.