Creating the Experience: Brian Shifflet, Lake Erie Shores & Islands
Ohio's Lake Erie Shores & Islands is a prime destination for both leisure and group travel.
Groups benefit from a variety of entertaining attractions, as well as a supportive group planning team. Group business is growing rapidly in the region, allowing for an expansion and transitioning of roles within the Lake Erie Shores & Islands group sales team. Groups Today caught up with Brian Shifflet, who has been with the organization for 15 years, about his newly-expanded position as Group Experience Manager.
How did you get here?
BS: I grew up in Port Clinton and have always loved the area. While in college studying music education, I needed a summer job. The Ottawa County Visitors Bureau (future Lake Erie Shores and Islands) had moved into a new building and I applied and became a travel counselor. I worked many summers as a travel counselor and after a brief foray teaching music in the public schools, I returned to the area. I started back as a travel counselor and then was promoted to Group Services Manager and am now working with the motorcoach and student markets as Group Experience Manager.
What does being a Group Experience Manager mean to you and group leaders/operators?
BS: My role is to ensure that groups have the most amazing experience they can have in our region. I like to take time to identify what each group finds important and exciting and create a customized itinerary that fits each group's needs. We have so much to offer in our region! I strive to be the best resource that our region has to offer groups and create a unique and memorable experience for all who visit.
What do you feel is the area's most unique group experience?
BS: There are so many, it's hard to choose! If I have to pick one, it would be the Lake Erie islands. Both Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island are very unique in both their natural beauty and wonderful relaxing atmosphere. They are both truly one of a kind places!
What's your favorite new attraction or event?
BS: While not new in the truest sense, the reopening of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial is certainly exciting! The 352-foot column, operated by the National Park Service, was closed for maintenance and repairs in 2017. This year, the observation deck is reopened and welcoming visitors. The view from the top deck cannot be beat—and combining gorgeous views with the unique history of the island and monument is a perfect pairing!
What's your favorite anchor/annual event?
BS: For groups, I think one of the most fun and exciting event is Pyrate Fest held each June at Put-in-Bay. This festival offers something for all ages and also many amazing photo opportunities. After all, who hasn't thought once or twice about being a pirate?
What Lake Erie Shores & Islands group service do you think is most valuable to operators?
BS: Our expertise in the area attractions and events and customization of experiences in the area is the most valuable tool we can offer. It's one thing to read about an area or an attraction, but we strive to experience all the area has to offer so we can offer firsthand experience to our group tour leaders. I also feel that our area welcome packets are extremely useful—particularly for groups who are spending a few days in the region. We offer area maps, information, and a discount card for area attractions, restaurants and shopping.
What contribution to the Lake Erie Shores & Islands organization are you most proud of?
BS: Our group sales team has grown and expanded due to the combined efforts of many in our organization. I'm also very proud of our Tourism Ambassador Volunteer program which I oversee. It is utilized to welcome and assist groups and conventions coming to the area.
What do you do outside of work?
BS: Outside of work I am a professional cellist. I perform with our local, professional symphony—the Firelands Symphony Orchestra. I also perform with the Firelands String Quartet and maintain a small studio of private students. In addition to my music, I also love gardening and do living history as a civil war civilian re-enactor.
Information courtesy of Amanda Smith Rasnick, Director of Group Accounts at Lake Erie Shores & Islands.
Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands.