By Scott Sullivan
Josh Albrecht, who in 18 months as Saugatuck-Douglas Area Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director led a successful drive to raise room assessments, adding $500,000-plus yearly to its marketing budget, is resigning.
Albrecht gave two weeks notice to the bureau board at its meeting May 17, saying he had taken a new job, with the Peoria Area (Ill.) CVB with an eye to being nearer his family.
The board has begun searching for an interim director, president Andrew Milauckas said. He or she stands to be the bureau’s fourth leader in the last three and one-half years.
Choosing to leave was “difficult,” Albrecht told The Commercial Record. “But the opportunity to get back closer to our family (he, his wife Kelly and their three sons hail originally from that area) in Illinois was important to us.
“There has been a lot of great success over the last two years and I am proud of what we were able to accomplish,” the outgoing director said.
Hired in November 2017 after the board terminated Ken Fischang following a 90-day evaluation, Albrecht came here after serving as Rockford Area (Ill.) CVB marketing and public affairs director. Fischang had briefly succeeded 27-year local founding director Felicia Fairchild, who in December 2016 chose not to renew her contract.
Albrecht was six months into his SDACVB job last spring when lodging members approved hiking room assessments from 2 to 5 percent, now the industry standard in Michigan, expected to generate $500,000 plus a year in new revenue.
“The increase,” said Albrecht, “will make us more competitive with other state tourism bureaus. It will allow us to implement aggressive, fully-integrated year-round marketing initiatives and messaging.”
The bureau has since hired two new marketing staff and increased its Pure Michigan membership level from $25,000 to $50,000. The 2019 Spring Summer Pure Michigan Travel guide features Saugatuck-Douglas on its cover and inside.
Among the bureau’s new initiatives is an impending June-long Saugatuck Expo celebrating local arts and culture (see related story in this week’s The Resorter, Page B7).
Beyond the assessment hike, Albrecht told board members, other achievements during his tenure included launching and enhancing the CVB’s new saugatuck.com website, producing two high-quality visitors guides, growing its social media presence, creating community partnerships and building bureau’s relationship with Pure Michigan (including not just the spring/summer guide exposure but representation at the Detroit Auto Show and a Chicago Amtrak Station promo).
“There is lots of positive momentum that has been built,” he told board members, “and I am confident that momentum will continue with the upcoming Saugatuck Expo.
“In addition, our strong advertising campaign is underway with ads running in magazines such as Midwest Living, American Road, West Michigan Tourist Association Travel Guide and the USA Go Escape Guide.
“Our partnership with Pure Michigan continues to grow both through the print travel guide advertising and the online partnership at www. michigan.org.
“Our partnership resulted in a recent media trip to New York City to pitch ideas on our area to national magazines like Travel & Leisure, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine. Advertising on NPR Chicago began in April and will continue through May as we promote the spring and summer months.
“Finally, our digital campaign featuring display, keyword search and social media began early this month and will continue through October this year.
Albrecht’s last day will be May 28, just as summer and the Expo begin.
“Again, thank you for your support during my time with the SDACVB,” he said. “I was honored to represent the communities of Saugatuck, Douglas and Fennville.
“The future is very bright thanks to the dedication of the board, CVB staff and all of you,” Albrecht said.