Middletown organization works on city’s ‘special sauce’ for more visitors

Mary Huttlinger, executive director of the Middletown Visitors Bureau makes a presentation to nearly 50 people last month at the Windamere Event Venue and Art Gallery. It was the organization’s first strategic update with community stakeholders since its year-long reorganization. ED RICHTER/STAFF

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Mary Huttlinger, executive director of the Middletown Visitors Bureau makes a presentation to nearly 50 people last month at the Windamere Event Venue and Art Gallery. It was the organization’s first strategic update with community stakeholders since its year-long reorganization. ED RICHTER/STAFF

After a year-long hiatus, the Middletown Visitors Bureau is focused on telling the city’s magical story.

Nearly 50 community and local tourism stakeholders recently heard an update on the nonprofit organization’s progress following its hiatus of close to a year with the appointment of a new board of trustees.

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Newly hired Executive Director Mary Huttlinger outlined how the board refocused its mission statement, vision and values and how it has refocused its mission, vision as well as reorganizing the entire organization. Since becoming executive director, Huttlinger has had more than 100 outreach meetings with stakeholders in the local hospitality and tourism industry as well as with former board members to get their thoughts and perspectives.

“We’re taking our website in a different direction from before,” she said. “Middletown has been dark regionally for some time.”

The organization’s vision is to make Middletown “a destination location inspiring visitors with fresh and innovative experiences.”

MORE: Remake of Middletown Visitors Bureau continues with new executive director

Huttlinger said sharing Middletown’s story and narrative is the “secret sauce” that includes aspects like the downtown’s new Main Street designation as well as Ohio’s first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area; the home of the Ohio Challenge hot air balloon competition; a hub for pickleball; and having two stops on the nationally known Butler County Donut Trail.

Huttlinger said the visitors bureau’s end goal “is to get heads in beds” by attracting out of town guests, visitors and well as residents to re-discover Middletown with its own “secret sauce” — telling the city’s story and why it’s a great place to visit.

“We want Middletonians to fall in love with the city again and get them interested in Middletown,” she said.

In addition to completing the total reorganization of the visitors bureau and its board, Huttlinger said work has started on the branding of the city and the visitors bureau as well as implementing a marketing plan and social media strategy. She said the visitors bureau is also developing a new website, creating a restaurant/lodging task force.

“We’re putting together packages to encourage people to get people to stay overnight,” she said.

Explore MORE: Middletown Visitors Bureau’s new focus: Making events better, not just ‘writing checks’

Huttlinger said the visitors bureau is also working to support projects that highlight the area and appeal to out-of-towners.

Huttlinger also said the visitors bureau would be spending more money on direct advertising and marketing this year. The visitors bureau is funded from revenues from the city’s 3 percent lodging tax.

She said the visitors bureau will have an advertisement in the July edition of Ohio Magazine and is working with the 20-city Great Miami Riverway Coalition with the opening of the River Center facility that is scheduled for late August.

Some of those attending the meeting were pleased with Huttlinger’s presentation.

“I think she’s wonderful,” said Linda Moorman, a former board member and president of the previous Middletown Convention and Visitors Bureau. “She’s doing what the former board was working on for seven years.”

Ruth Orth of Miami Regionals said the consensus of the room was very positive after Huttlinger’s presentation.

“They’re in the beginning stages of their projects, and they have a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s cool to see how they’re going to connect things and get people to visit downtown.”

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Middletown Visitors Bureau 2018 Board of Trustees

  • Chelsey Levingston, president
  • Betsy Hanavan, vice president
  • Mica Glaser-Jones, secretary
  • Rick Pearce
  • Deanna Shores
  • Molly Baldwin
  • Stefan Wannemacher
  • Sheri Howard
  • Ami Vitori, City Council liaison
  • Shelby Quinlivan, city manager liaison

SOURCE: Middletown Visitors Bureau

Middletown Visitors Bureau Accomplishments

  • Creating space in social media with consistent growth
  • Development of a customized one-page brochure for the International Scratchboard Artist show
  • Hiring a full-time executive director
  • Prepared a comprehensive budget
  • Coordinated Hampton Inn with concert showcase opportunity offered by the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Secured office space to provide the visitors bureau a storefront for guests and customers to visit
  • The Great Miami Riverway Coalition sponsorship and participation

SOURCE: Middletown Visitors Bureau

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