Right Package Drew Tourism Chief

    GRAND HAVEN — A desire to return home and a chance to market the area’s unique aspects to travelers drew the new head of the local visitors bureau to seek the position.

    Marci Cisneros, a North Muskegon native who’s worked for three years as head of a small tourism bureau in central Tennessee, will become the executive director of the Grand Haven-Spring Lake Visitors Bureau on Sept. 23.

    “I’m getting two great packages rolled into one,” said Cisneros, whose family resides in the Muskegon area.

    Cisneros, 31, will direct tourism development and travel promotion for the Grand Haven-Spring Lake area. She’ll join the visitors bureau just as the busy summer tourism season is ending and planning begins on a marketing campaign for 2003.

    The timing works out well because it gives Cisneros a better opportunity to settle into the job and learn the community and the local tourism economy during a comparatively slow period when the primary focus is preparing next year’s marketing effort, she said.

    Cisneros sees the Grand Haven area — with its Lake Michigan beaches, sand dunes, waterfront boardwalk and downtown retail district — as offering “a great location, a bounty of natural resources and unique small-town charm” to promote.

    “It does give me some great tools to work with,” said Cisneros, who visited the area often while growing up and living in North Muskegon. “It lends itself to so many opportunities for promotion and has a tremendous amount of attractions.”

    The top goal is to develop ways to “fill the downtime” between the peak warm-weather travel seasons and create more of a year-round tourism economy for the area, she said.

    Tourism has an estimated economic impact of about $36.6 million for the Grand Haven area, although that’s considered low because it’s based on a formula that uses revenues generated from hotel and motel room taxes and does not take into account the spending by people who visit the area for one day or stay with family and friends.

    Cisneros comes to Grand Haven from Cookeville, Tenn., a community of about 26,000 residents. She served as executive director of the Cookeville/Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which she helped to create three years ago as an arm of the Cookeville Chamber Commerce. She has also served as a board member and fund-raising chair for the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association, a regional tourism marketing association covering several counties in mid-Tennessee.

    Cisneros was one of 55 applicants for the Grand Haven-Spring Lake position. Her experience in communications, publications and tourism development made her stand out from the field, said Joy Gaasch, president of The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg.

    Gaasch particularly liked Cisneros’s “big picture approach to how tourism can be developed” and her ideas for evaluating the outcomes of marketing efforts and spending.

    “She has some delightful ideas and a really good grasp on the importance of tourism to the economy,” Gaasch said. “She can take a fresh look at the organization and how we do things. A lot of stuff we do is great; we can always do better.”

    The Grand Haven-Spring Lake Visitors Bureau operates as a division of The Chamber of Commerce and has an annual operating budget of about $140,000.

    Prior to moving to Tennessee, Cisneros worked for the former Muskegon Economic Growth Alliance for a year, first as a database information specialist and then as events and publications manager.

    Cisneros succeeds Laurel Nease, who stepped down in mid-summer.           

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