CLAY COUNTY — For her efforts in establishing the county’s tourism office as a marketing organization that qualified for a matching marketing grant to attract visitors to the region, Clay County’s Director of Tourism Melissa Mohler received the Rising Star Award during the annual governor’s conference earlier this month. The conference, hosted by the Missouri Division of Tourism under the Missouri Department of Economic Development, was held Oct. 8 to 10, in Columbia.
“The award honors an individual who has worked for a tourism-related organization less than five years or who has transitioned to a new role and made significant advancements to the organization’s efforts,” states a release about the award.
“I am honored and excited to have been recognized by the Missouri Division of Tourism for the efforts our department has made in the last four years. We have worked hard to build Clay County’s first tourism initiative, and we are thrilled to showcase the county’s destinations and community offerings to visitors,” said Mohler.
Within weeks of Mohler’s employment, the tourism department’s application to become a Destination Marketing Organization for the first time was accepted.
“This special designation for Clay County means that we are bringing tax dollars back to Clay County that would have been spent in other counties. So far we have successfully applied for four marketing matching grants that totaled more than $611,000 in state funding,” she said.
Another impactful project she has been part of, Mohler said, was the perception study.
“It helped us to identify who our visitors were and where they were coming from. From there, we developed a campaign, became a certified destination and received our first marketing matching grant with the Missouri Division of Tourism. We built a brand new website showcasing new photos and videos of our community, natural destinations and the many niche businesses that make their home in Clay County. The new website has gotten great feedback on its design and accessibility, we are really excited to show it off,” she said.
Clay County tourism brings in more than $557 million in revenue for the county annually.
“This is a $75 million jump from last year, biggest increase yet,” states a county release. The county’s tourism efforts are ranked seventh in the state behind only larger efforts like Visit KC, Explore St. Louis and counties around Lake of the Ozarks.
A native Northlander, Mohler said she loves working where she grew up.
“My job gives me this opportunity to improve Clay County for our visitors and for the citizens we serve. Tourism is one of Missouri’s biggest industries, and it’s definitely one of the biggest in Clay County. Last year, tourism spending by visitors to our destinations totaled around $557 million. That’s so exciting for our local businesses and anyone who may be thinking about their own start-up,” she said.