The Washington Area Chamber of Commerce was presented with the Innovator Award for its tourism success at the 2013 Governor’s Conference on Tourism, held last week in Springfield.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Division of Tourism recognized several individuals, organizations and businesses that work in the tourism industry for their achievements.

Representing Washington at the awards program were Mary Beth Rettke, tourism director for the Washington Chamber; Rick Hopp, tourism committee chair; Bridgette Epple, director of Downtown Washington Inc., which works with the Chamber on many events and projects; and Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy.

The Innovator Award pays tribute to those smaller tourism entities that achieved great results with small budgets.

The state tourism division commended Washington Chamber officials for refocusing funds collected by the city’s lodging tax, after noting a four-year rise, on targeting more visitors. The Chamber used the money to extend the area’s marketing reach.

Over the years, Washington has become a popular spot for visitors from the eastern side of the state, state officials said, and new efforts have been aimed at attracting visitors from the west — and it’s working.

Rettke said the Innovator Award looks at a community’s lodging, Amtrak use, events and money taken in.

“We’re excited to have received the award and excited about the growith we’ve experienced in tourism over the years,” she said.

Year-round, travel and tourism is a rapidly expanding segment of Missouri’s economy.

Missouri’s tourism industry generates $11.2 billion in revenue each year and supports more than 280,000 jobs in the state.

Tourism also provides $1.1 billion in state and local taxes that help our communities.

In the last fiscal year, total tourism sales were up $3.8 million when compared to the previous fiscal year.


Rettke, who attended all three days of the Governor’s Conference, said she picked up a lot of good ideas for increasing tourism, specifically agri-tourism.

“Some of the ideas are scheduling tours on area farms, tree farms and pumpkin patches,” she said. “There’s also an AgriMissouri website where you can post events and businesses on it. We are considering joining it, but even if you’re not a member, there is still a lot you can do with it.”

Rettke said tourism is up in Washington, with two or more group tours coming in each month, along with others making day trips or overnight stays here.

About MDT

The Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT) is the official tourism office for the state, dedicated to marketing Missouri as a premier travel destination.

Established in 1967, the Missouri Division of Tourism has worked hard to develop the tourism industry in Missouri to what it is today, an $11 billion industry supporting more than 281,000 jobs.

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