Mark Hecquet said was the first employee hired at the Butler County Visitors Bureau. As executive director, he continues to lead the organization. CONTRIBUTED

Q&A: The major selling points of Butler County for visitors, explained

The Butler County Visitors Bureau is a destination marketing organization dedicated to creating exceptional tourism experiences for visitors throughout Butler County.

The BCVB promotes the county’s destinations through a variety of endeavors, including meetings, conferences, conventions, tourist events, and attractions. The Butler County Visitors Bureau is located at 8756 Union Centre Boulevard in West Chester.

We talked to Executive Director Mark Hecquet about his role and some of the growth he’s seen within the county.

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Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Although I am originally from London, England, I have lived in the United States much longer than I lived in England. Since coming to the United States to attend college, I have lived in Lexington, Ky., Orlando, Fla., Cincinnati and now in Liberty Township. I had the pleasure of being the first employee of the Butler County Visitors Bureau when it opened in 2006. And it has been a privilege and joy watching the organization grow from a team of one to a team of 10 over the last 12 years. We have accomplished so much in that time.

Q: What’s involved in your role as executive director of Butler County Visitors Bureau?

A: My role at the BCVB allows me the opportunity to set the strategic vision and direction for the BCVB with the assistance and support of the BCVB Board of Directors. I lead a team of 10 tourism professionals as we work to attract and welcome visitors and guests to Butler County from areas around the region and across the country. I also spend quite a bit of time advocating, providing insight and contributing thought leadership for tourism-related development projects countywide. With tourism bringing in such a large economic impact to the county, it’s important to keep that impact top-of-mind. As a result, I often advocate for Butler County as well as the Ohio and United States tourism and travel industry at a state and local level with key stakeholders. Overall, my role is to be a visible and knowledgeable ambassador for the travel industry.

Q: What do you love the most about your job?

A: Every day, I get to promote and talk about what I feel is one of the most exciting and dynamic counties not only in Ohio but in our region. The growth of Butler County over the past 10 years has been incredible. This means there’s always new product to promote and new stories to tell. The evolving and changing product, coupled with the new technologies and insights that marketers have access to keeps things interesting every day. I have the pleasure to lead a wonderful, creative and driven team who are joy to work with and have elevated organization beyond all of my expectations.

Q: What are some of your skills or talents that you bring to your role?

A: By nature, I’m a passionate, energetic, extremely competitive and driven person. I love to travel and learn about people. I enjoy learning about other destinations and that always brings a fresh perspective to my work. I think my greatest talent is to bring all kinds of people and stakeholders into a project and align them with a common vision. This County has been able to work through some tough and important challenges when we all work together and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to develop relationships throughout the County that have allowed many opportunities and partnerships to flourish.

Q: What is one little known fact about you?

A: My competitive nature extends into my life away from the office. I’m also very passionate about Ironman Triathlons and have competed at several different races in the last few years.

Q: What do you consider as some of the greatest accomplishments of the Butler County Visitors Bureau?

A: I’m incredibly proud of the accomplishments of the BCVB over the last 12 years. Here are a few that standout.

• The Butler County Wayfinding Program was a key project as it visually links all areas of the county through an easy navigation system. The impact of this project is still immense today as we look to expand the program into a new phase.

• The BCVB partnered with the MetroParks of Butler County to construct the VOA Sports Complex, which has brought a premier athletic facility into our venue portfolio and has been a model for other destinations, regionally.

• The BCVB has been awarded and hosted numerous major National Championship Sporting Events which infuse millions of dollars into our local economy including: US Triathlon Junior and Youth National Championships, AAU Girls Basketball National Championships, US Archery National Championships, USA Weightlifting National Championships

• The BCVB created the Butler County Donut Trail which has received extensive media coverage around the world and has brought thousands of new people into our communities for the first time.

• The BCVB partnered with the Butler County Commissioners, Butler County Development and the Butler County Port Authority on the Project Spark Initiative. This initiative positions Butler County as a dynamic, forward-looking destination – a “top choice” for business, major events, culture, sport, tourism and investment – as well as a great place to study or call home and also resulted in the first county-wide branding shift in many years.

Q: How would you describe your mission?

A: The BCVB mission and vision is key to leading the work of the organization. We recently completed our Vision 2027 plan which examined the changing travel industry and how we can continue grow the Butler County travel and tourism economy. But simply put “We are Destination and Travel Trailblazers with a mission to craft shareable experiences for all that will economically benefit Butler County.”

Q: What are some of the ways the bureau best serves Butler County?

A: The BCVB, our staff and the services we provide are the first exposure many people have to Butler County as a destination, future home or business location. We provide a layer of hospitality, knowledge and general friendliness that makes people feel comfortable and welcome. We also aggregate and assemble travel-related information so that potential visitors can find a one-stop source for things to do, places to stay, must-try food and one-of-a-kind events.

Q: Has the Butler County Visitors Bureau received any awards or accolades?

A: The BCVB has been honored to receive incredible recognition by national and regional organizations for our work over the years. Here’s a brief list of the recent highlights -

• In 2016, we received the prestigious U.S. Travel Destiny Award for marketing creativity for the Butler County Donut Trail. We were one of only 13 organizations nationwide to receive such an award.

• In 2017, we received two Ruby awards from the Ohio Travel Association for Best Print Advertising and Best Social Media Campaign for our Hello Weekend campaign.

• The BCVB has received the National Association of Sports Commissions – Sports Commission / CVB of the Year award.

• The BCVB is also a fully accredited organization with Destinations International. Having completed the Destinations International DMAP Accreditation process. The BCVB is one of only 200 organizations worldwide to have received this accreditation.

Q: How can residents connect with the Butler County Visitors Bureau?

A: I invite residents to connect with the BCVB is a variety of ways. Please visit our website at www.gettothebc.com or social media channels for original content, event information and so much more. You can also sign up for our weekly or monthly e-newsletters which provide information on events happening throughout the County.

We also have a Welcome Center located at our office in West Chester. Residents are welcome to pick up information about local events and attractions or speak with one of our staff members about fun things to do in the County. And of course, be sure to pick up a copy of the Butler County Insiders Guide.

Many residents might not know that we provide a full range of complimentary services for event planning. If you have a sporting event, family reunion, meeting or any type of activity that has visitors coming to Butler County we here to help and make it the best experience for everyone. So, please reach out to us.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: Travel and Tourism is vital component of the Butler County economy. Annually, travel and tourism generates over $1 billion in business activity generating over $26 million in local taxes and supports over 13,000 local jobs in Butler County.

We hear all the time to how great our residents are at welcoming visitors to Butler County. We hear it in person and we see it in our research. Our people, our Butler County residents, are the key to growing the industry and their incredible hospitality to our guests makes Butler County special.

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