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CEO of Branson chamber promotes regionalism in tourism approach

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For Jason Outman, president and CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Ozarks region is greater than the sum of its parts.

Speaking as Springfield Business Journal's April 19 guest for the 12 People You Need to Know live interview series, Outman said tourism victories, as well as economic development successes, will come when the region works collaboratively, rather than individual cities like Branson and Springfield competing for their piece of the pie.

"Collaboration is key," he said in an interview with SBJ Editorial Vice President Eric Olson at The Backlot, Alamo Drafthouse Springfield's restaurant and bar. “There's no reason why we can't co-promote.”

To market the Ozarks as a region, Outman said the promotion of northwest Arkansas may flow in with campaigns for Branson, Springfield and other local cities. He and the Branson CVB team already have worked with Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. and its CEO, Tracy Kimberlin, for a campaign promoting the Springfield and Branson areas.

"Visitors don't know boundaries," Outman said of the historical competition between Branson and Springfield. "There's these imaginary walls."

To help break down the walls, he said regional campaigns should focus on outdoor explorations and activities in the Ozarks, as well as attractions like Silver Dollar City in Branson and the culinary and microbrewery scenes in Springfield.

Outman said his office has had early conversations with the Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau in northwest Arkansas to promote the Ozarks as a destination.

"Don't be shocked if you see a Bentonville, Branson, Springfield regional campaign in the near future," he said. "Let's showcase to people what the Ozarks really are."

Asked by Olson about Branson specifically, Outman said the city is coming off a record year in tax revenue. The 2021 tourism tax tallied nearly $17 million, beating the prior record of $13.6 million, according to past reporting, and the visitor count surpassed 10 million.

After the record year, Outman said he's cautiously optimistic about 2022.

"We are actually off to a good start," he said, noting the goal is to meet 2019 numbers.

Outman pointed to the $350 million-plus Imagine Resorts & Hotels development in Hollister and Bass Pro Shops' investment in the Missouri Thunder bull-riding team and Thunder Ridge venue in Ridgedale as prominent projects in the pipeline.

"That puts us on CBS Sports every Sunday," he said of the Thunder.

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