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Local tour company adds six staff members

Ozark Mountain Sightseeing of Branson has added six travel professionals to its staff, according to Ed Michel, president of the company.

?Chip Kidd is serving as an event and sales coordinator who will develop the company's Grand Millennium Celebration.

?Stacy Hayter, of Branson, is a new tour coordinator with previous experience in booking tickets and accommodations at a large receptive agency, and coordinating group and motor coach reservations for a large resort and entertainment complex.

?Jenny Foster, with a background in group sales and service, has also been named a tour coordinator.

?Heather Laffoon, of Harrison, Ark., is the new administrative sales assistant.

?Kim Lovell-Vance, of Ozark, is a tour specialist, bringing with her 13 years of tourism experience in Nashville.

?Michelle Thompson, also a new tour specialist, is a former sales manager at one of the area's largest hotels.

Chamber presents 1998 visitor profile info

More than 6.8 million visitors came to the Branson area last year, with a little more than half traveling more than 300 miles. The Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce presented its Branson Visitor Profile for 1998 during the public unveiling of its 1999 marketing plan March 22.

Other information in the profile reported that Springfieldians ranked first last year in the top 10 designated market areas for Branson, followed by St. Louis, Little Rock, Kansas City and Fort Smith. Visitor composition included 33 percent families, 67 percent adults, 5.5 percent tour bus travelers and 25 percent first-time visitors.

The average visitor's age was 55.9 years. Visitors ranked their favorite two activities in Branson as shopping, at 88.4 percent, and theaters, at 88.2 percent, followed by theme parks, at 46.2 percent.

In the new marketing plan, the chamber stated, it has developed its marketing around five key assumptions:

?To build key markets within 750 miles of Branson.

?The strongest opportunity for return on investment will come from reaching target consumers within a 150- to 750-mile radius.

?The greatest need for economic impact falls between March and August.

?The greatest opportunity to build the visitor base is during the summer months.

?The primary objective of the marketing program is to drive overnight visitors and increase revenue base.

The chamber reported that it planned to invest most of its advertising dollars in television with nearly $1.5 million going into its spring television campaign alone. The chamber kicked off its spring advertising program at a cost of $72,700 by airing television spots with 15 target ABC affiliates during the Academy Awards broadcast March 21.

Other plans stated in the report included positioning Branson as a premier location for events of 4,000 attendees or less and expanding the chamber's travel agent program by adding 1,000 new members to the Branson Booster Club.

The chamber also hoped to acquire a second corporate sponsor by the end of 1999 in addition to its current First USA Branson Visa card partnership. Priority was also given to the development of a Web site. The chamber stated in its marketing report that it is in the process of choosing a company to design the site, with the first phase of the Web site to be complete by May 31.

Money spent in lakes area hits $1.2 billion

About $1.2 billion dollars was spent in Stone and Taney counties last year according to figures compiled by the city of Branson Finance Department. Dollars spent inside the city limits of Branson in 1998 totaled $705,763,000 while in the rest of the county, consumers spent $222,692,000, and in Stone County, consumers spent $285,222,000. The amount of sales tax collected in the area and paid to the state of Missouri was $50,185,589.

The city also reported that, for the first four months of its fiscal year, revenue from the 1.5 percent sales tax was up 7.8 percent over last year while the tourism tax revenue has increased by 2.4 percent.

South Outdoor names general manager

Christina Hardy has been promoted to general manager of South Outdoor Advertising, Joplin.

South operates about 500 billboards in a 10-county area in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas.

Hardy has been with South Outdoor since 1993 and has served in several areas, including sales, operations and administration.

Tickets on sale for chamber banquet

Tickets are now available for the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce 82nd Annual Banquet, to be held April 22 at Hammons Trade Center.

Awards will be presented for Small Business of the Year, Outstanding Citizen of the Year and four Golden Apple teachers.

A reception begins at 6:15 p.m., with dinner served at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 each.

Stars come out for MSSC fund raiser

Actors Dennis Weaver and Ed Begley Jr. and actress Linda Gray will be the star attractions at the All Star Roundup April 16 at Missouri Southern State College, Joplin.

The event benefits the Dennis Weaver Scholarship for Ecolonomics, which has been defined as "maintaining natural resources in ways that are economically sound."

The roundup begins at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by an outdoor barbecue dinner at 7 and an auction featuring items donated by businesses and celebrities.

Celebrity donors include actress Linda Evans, actor-comedian Tim Allen, actress Sally Struthers, actor Mike Farrell, actor-director Ron Howard and Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith.

Tickets for the barbecue dinner and auction are $35. Admission to the pre-dinner reception is an additional $15. Tickets are available at the MSSC Alumni Office, 625-9355.

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