CVB Director Felicia Fairchild Will Not Renew Contract With Saugatuck-Douglas Visitors Bureau
On December 7, 2016 Felicia Fairchild, the long-time Executive Director of the Saugatuck-Douglas Visitors Bureau and architect of the area’s tourism industry branded “The Art Coast of Michigan”, announced her decision to end her consulting position with the Visitors Bureau effective January 7, 2017.
In a letter presented to her Board of Directors at their December 7th business meeting, Fairchild wrote, “It has been a pleasure serving this community and it is with sincere mixed emotions that I am ending our long-standing business relationship to take on a new assignment.
She added, “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to successfully lead the development of the tourism industry in the Saugatuck-Douglas area, and I am gratified to have elevated it into one of the top five tourist destinations in the Midwest and ’ The Best Coastal Small Town in America!’”
She credits her high productivity at the CVB to those dedicated board members throughout the years who created a positive working environment by putting the best interests of the community before self interests.
Fairchild, best known for her international and U.S. domestic tourism marketing savvy and her ability to achieve global media recognition, is leaving the community with a legacy of press accolades valued at more than $103 million.
Under her leadership, the local tourism industry has flourished. The direct economic impact of tourism on the local economy has grown to $255 million per year. Lodging revenues have increased annually for the past 27 years with the exception of 2008 and 2009 during the national economic downturn. Still, those two years dipped only 2.02% and 3.24% respectively compared to significant drops nationwide. Real estate values tied to the community’s tourism reputation also remained strong and have continued to flourish as well.
In addition, the outgoing CVB executive director has parlayed the original $30,000 lodging assessment collected in 1989 into a half-million dollar operating budget in 2017, and has obtained a new welcome center financed by local philanthropist Thelma Coghlin - now worth three times what the bureau paid for it.
She also leaves the organization with a pending offer on the sale of the bureau’s old office building in Douglas. Fairchild will depart on a high note following a record year for many area business owners in 2016—one local bank reporting a 31% increase in business revenues this past season.
In June of 2014 Dr. Vincent P. Magnini, Ph.D., Virginia Tech Professor and well-known International Tourism Marketing Consultant, became interested in Fairchild’s methods of developing the Saugatuck area’s tourism product while working with her on the CVB’s Five Year Strategic Tourism Marketing Plan. That relationship has resulted in a book offer for Fairchild beginning in 2017.
According to Dr. Magnini, who is ranked among the top 11 tourism marketing planners in the world, “The techniques that Fairchild used to develop and support an award-winning tourism brand identity on a very limited budget should be published in a book so that others can learn from her successes.”
When asked what goals remain on her career bucket list, Fairchild indicated that her ultimate goals are to pursue her Doctoral Degree abroad, in addition to launching a cross-country promotional trip as a photo journalist celebrating the 100th anniversary of a travel journal written and published by her grandfather in 1921.
Her grandfather, a prominent physician & surgeon from Spokane, took his family on a trip cross-country via a Model T car to visit Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks before the U.S. highway system was developed.
His book was just recently republished by Google in collaboration with a national education foundation, citing it as a culturally significant work.
As his granddaughter, Fairchild plans to retrace his itinerary, taking photos from the same locations as those in the original book. She will compare and write about her grandfather’s experiences versus her modern-day journey - 100 years later.
When asked about regrets she said she has none stating, “I have met every goal and accomplished everything I set out to do here. I feel confident passing the baton on to our board which needs to focus on redesigning the CVB website and implementing the Five Year Strategic Marketing Plan I presented to the community one year ago.”
Fairchild acknowledges that the CVB is an extremely complicated operation with many moving parts. During the past 16 months, she has worked diligently behind the scenes to prepare the bureau and the staff for her departure.
She engaged the entire community in developing a five-year Strategic Tourism Marketing Plan that identifies the strategies and changes that need to be made locally in order to remain competitive going forward.
Fairchild has hired and trained new staff, updated procedures, materials, manuals, prepared staff guidelines, transferred her files to the bureau, organized archives, tied up loose ends and transferred responsibilities to staff. In her letter to the board, she stated, “I am confident that I am leaving the organization in excellent shape. The chairman of the board has been briefed on the status of remaining projects and my specific recommendations for handling them to insure a smooth transition.”
Prior to leaving, Fairchild plans to wrap-up the CVB video blog marketing project that she initiated in 2016 to fulfill marketing plan objectives targeting millennials and boomers simultaneously. She hired interns who were instructed to create witty, but informative, video experiences in blog format which highlight the tourism assets of the community. With the editing assistance of Denise Scott-Jackson, owner of Scott-Jackson Creative, the duo added 16 new videos to the existing 13 already posted on line. These will also feature the two hilarious interns who spent the summer showcasing all the tourism experiences in the Saugatuck-Douglas area. The project recently received national industry recognition for innovative use of social media.
Finally, Fairchild wanted to convey this message to the community: “I have been passionate about my responsibilities here and my love for this community, its residents, the business owners and the many life-long friendships that I have forged while living here.
“These relationships have become an indelible part of my life. I hope to continue to be an asset to the community.
“Thank you for your support and the opportunity to help make Saugatuck-Douglas number one! “
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Fairchild is a seasoned executive with experience in both the international and U.S. domestic travel industries.
She began her career with Pan American World Airways in New York City where she served in International executive level marketing and public affairs positions before joining UNICEFF as Director of Communications for the United States.
As a personal appointee of Governor John Engler, she served two terms as a Travel Commissioner for the State of Michigan.
As a commissioner she was instrumental in resurrecting the luxury cruise industry in the Great Lakes; and she spearheaded the return of luxury cruise ships into Michigan waters after a 35-year absence.
She has served as president of the Michigan Beachtowns Association for the past 10 years; is president of the Michigan Port Collaborative and vice chairman of the Michigan Small Harbors Coalition.
She was also elected Marketing and Media Director for the board of directors of the Lake Michigan Water Trails Association and serves as a member of the Saugatuck-Douglas Harbor Authority.
Fairchild received the Tourism Industry Service Award from the West Michigan Tourist Association and was named by the editors of the region’s foremost Business Journal, one of the “26 Most Influential Women In West Michigan”.