Kate Scopetti is living a full life revolving around a passion for travel, plus an exceptional ability to develop super creative and truly unique experiences, naturally led to the creation of the categorically successful Mid Atlantic Receptive Services, (MARS) and its subsidiaries: Go Performing, Go Student Tours, Go Sports Tours, and SoccerTours.net.
Destination on the Left is joined by Kate Scopetti, President and owner of MARS & Companies (Mid-Atlantic Receptive Services). On our podcast, Kate joins us to talk about the group travel industry, the work her organization is doing to prepare for recovery, and why collaborations are more important than ever. She explains her philosophy of “opening our minds to where the opportunities lie,” and talks about how that philosophy is applied in her own businesses.
Kate Scopetti is the President and owner of MARS & Companies (Mid Atlantic Receptive Services). With a full life revolving around a passion for travel, Kate has developed an exceptional ability to craft extremely creative and truly unique experiences that led to the formation of MARS and its subsidiaries. On our podcast, Kate joins us to talk about the group travel industry, the work her organization is doing to prepare for recovery, and why collaborations are more important than ever. She explains her philosophy of “opening our minds to where the opportunities lie,” and talks about how that philosophy is applied in her own businesses.
MARS & Companies initially started as a receptive company in the Mid Atlantic Region. They developed a substantial following in the DC area as the go-to experts for tour operators and other agents in the area. They worked collaboratively with this regional network of tourism professionals to connect different types of clients with different types of products throughout the year. And from there, they transformed into a true wholesaler. MARS & Companies now offer products around the world, and they still have a significant amount of clients that were with them from the beginning.
Collaboration has enabled Kate to build a powerful foundation and client base, but the use of creativity really helped MARS & Companies stand out from the pack. Kate and her team use creativity to build unique, custom strategies for their clients based on the specific needs and goals of each one. As a wholesaler, they can help their clients grow by expanding their product offerings without adding a significant amount of labor. Using creativity during these difficult times is only going to yield new solutions that will become part of your product line when things pick up again. As we make our way out of this pandemic, that is important to remember.
Kathy Casstevens is the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge. She is also a photographer, tourism professional, and lover of nature. Kathy launched GnatTravel a year ago to promote travel in a different way. She is also the chair of the LaSalle County Tourism coalition.
Destination on the Left is joined by Kathy Casstevens, the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge. During our conversation, Kathy shares her journey into destination marketing and talks about how she has used creativity and collaboration to market Starved Rock Lodge on a shoestring budget. She provides a bunch of tips and insider hacks for marketing that will drive results at any destination, and she walks us through the content strategy that helped bring over two million visitors through Starved Rock last year.
Kathy Casstevens is the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge in Utica, IL. She joins Destination on the left to share her journey into destination marketing and talk about how she has used creativity and collaboration to market Starved Rock Lodge on a shoestring budget. During our conversation, Kathy provides a bunch of tips and insider hacks for marketing that will drive results at any destination. She walks us through the content strategy that helped bring over two million visitors through Starved Rock last year, and she discusses some of the exciting projects on the horizon that aim to generate even more traffic next year.
Starved Rock Lodge is nestled in the heart of Starved Rock State Park in North-Central Illinois. It is such a unique place because it completely disrupts the rolling meadows and cornfields with 18 glacier-cut canyons, seasonal waterfalls, and unbelievable views. The actual lodge sits atop an 80 ft bluff overlooking Starved Rock on the Illinois River. And as you can imagine, there is a lot of material to work with in designing a marketing campaign that sets Starved Rock apart from the pack. Last year, they had over two million visitors come through their destination, and as travel and tourism start to pick back up, they plan to do more. Photography is one of the primary tools Kathy will use to accomplish that goal.
When Kathy started working at Starved Rock Lodge, they literally had ONE digital photo. Now, they have a digital library of hundreds of thousands. With such an unusual landscape in an unsuspecting geographic area, being able to show prospective travelers what makes it unique is vital to their marketing efforts. Over the years, Kathy has expanded the range of platforms Starved Rock uses to promote it’s massive digital photo library, and she is able to reach a significantly greater audience through apps like tik tok, Instagram, and a handful of others. Staying organized is a challenge in and of itself, but if you can build a massive content library of your own, there is so much you can do with it at any given time.
Rachel Laber Pulvino is a Rochester native who has the privilege of promoting her hometown on a daily basis as the Director of Public Relations and Communications for Visit Rochester. In this role, Rachel is regularly reaching out to regional, national, and international media to share Rochester’s story, and help media and visitors alike discover the activities and attractions that make Rochester an ideal destination. Raised in Rochester, Rachel attended SUNY Geneseo, where she earned a B.A. in Communication and continued on to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University for graduate school, where she earned an M.S. in Public Relations. Rachel is an active member of the Public Relations Society of America, Rochester Chapter, currently serving on the board, while also volunteering on the programming and PRism award committees. Rachel also volunteers her time for the SUNY Geneseo Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Rochester. Rachel is a proud resident of the City of Rochester where she resides with her husband, Rich Pulvino. When she’s not playing tour guide to visiting travel writers on the weekend, you can find Rachel visiting wineries in the Finger Lakes, at arts and cultural performance, or at Wegmans.
Destination on the Left is joined by Rachel Laber, the Director of Market Communications and Public Relations for Visit Rochester. She joins Destination on the Left again to talk about what the Visit Rochester team is doing to support their tourism industry partners through the pandemic. Rachel originally appeared on Episode #57, where we talked about driving tourism in Rochester, NY through creativity and collaboration. She is here to expand on that and talk about the different programs and response measures her team has taken over the past four months.
Rachel Laber is the Director of Market Communications and Public Relations for Visit Rochester. She joins Destination on the Left again to talk about what the Visit Rochester team is doing to support their tourism industry partners through the pandemic. Rachel originally appeared on Episode #57, where we talked about driving tourism in Rochester, NY through creativity and collaboration. She is here to expand on that and talk about the different programs and response measures her team has taken over the past four months. From the initial lockdown to the reopening phase, Visit Rochester has remained nimble throughout. This is a look into the challenges they faced during quarantine, and how they overcame them to continue supporting the industry.
When the stay-at-home order first went into effect back in March, Rachel and her team had to act swiftly. They began meeting and ideating daily to try and plan for what might be coming down the pipeline, and fight or flight took over. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, Rachel and her team approached the problem as realists, identifying what challenges were on the horizon, and what they could do to support their stakeholders at that moment. Visit Rochester pivoted right away, and within 24 hours, they shifted their efforts from marketing Rochester to outsiders to speaking directly to their local audience.
Visit Rochester dedicated itself to promoting local businesses. They helped organize and roll out virtual events that their attraction partners were putting together. And ultimately, they became a conduit of information. Rachel and her team were fiercely on top of all developments in government regulation and response, and they made sure their partners were informed so they could plan their next moves accordingly. It inspired a powerful digital content strategy that is still driving traffic for all of their partners today, and it took the organization’s creative and collaborative function to an entirely new level.
Curt Bedei is the Executive Director for the Ottawa Visitors Center in Ottawa, Illinois. He was hired in 2011 as the Graphics Design Manager to handle the botanical brand management. Since then, Curt has worked his way up, earning a certificate in Not For Profit management. In 2015, he had the opportunity to take on his current role. Curt sits on many boards and committees related to tourism, such as the Heritage Corridor CVB, LaSalle County Tourism Coalition, the Looking For Lincoln/ Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, and the Ottawa History and Scouting Heritage Museum. Curt has always lived in the Ottawa Area, and he loves history and traveling so this seemed like a natural fit.
Destination on the Left is joined by Curt Bedei, the Executive Director for the Ottawa Visitors Center in Ottawa, IL. On our podcast, Curt shares his journey into travel and tourism and talks about the creativity and collaborative efforts OVC has made to help their destination thrive. Learn about Ottawa’s community-driven approach branding, and find out how they are responding to the difficult challenges brought forth by 2020.
Curt Bedei is the Executive Director for the Ottawa Visitors Center in Ottawa, Illinois. During his conversation with host Nicole Mahoney, Curt explains how Ottawa lives out its botanical brand. He talks about the discovery process for identifying what truly makes Ottawa stand out from the pack. And as a community, they have focused on developing an experience to live out the brand promise. Curt joins Destination on the Left to talk about how the Ottawa community has responded to the difficult challenges of 2020. He also dives into the regional collaboration that brought a national television program to their destination, which is still paying dividends today.
Like many of the guests on Destination on the Left, Curt sort of stumbled into tourism. However, he quickly discovered that it was his calling, and since 2015, he hasn’t looked back. Curt has had an inspirational career as the Executive Director. But before he ever started climbing the ranks, Curt had no idea where he would end up. He was a graduate of the Great Recession; a position similar to what many budding travel and tourism professionals are facing today. But because of that, Curt is no stranger to difficult times in this industry. He stresses the importance of staying your path and pushing forward no matter what because you can’t plan for the opportunities that this industry will bring. You just have to be ready to capitalize on them when they arise and let nothing else get in your way.
Curt’s relentless determination is one of the main reasons the Ottawa Visitors Center has experienced such great success since he took the helm. When he joined the team at the Ottawa Visitors Center, they were looking to rebrand in order to stand out from the crowd and lift the community up. Curt and his team used creativity and collaboration to make that happen. They came up with the botanical brand in 2012, which focused heavily on developing gardens, art, and culture in the community. They revitalized the downtown area and did everything in their power to create a greater sense of pride in the community. This was all accomplished in collaboration with the city and the community itself—and the high level of support that was generated through this focus on engagement produced astonishing results.
LIVE EVENT: The Ottawa Visitors Center is hosting a virtual experience with Abraham Lincoln on August 12th at 7 pm. The live, online performance will combine period music with conversation and narrative by President Lincoln, using Lincoln’s own words, while illuminating Lincoln’s use of communication as a personal and political tool. This engaging show features Lincoln impersonator George Buss, and Illinois folk musician and folklorist Chris Vallillo. The performance will be followed by a Q & A with Buss and Vallillo. More information can be found on their website.