Destination Austin

The Austin Convention and Visitor's Bureau recently hired new tourism coordinator Heidi Murray. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

New tourism coordinator to sell Austin as hub

Residents in and around Austin may not see Austin as a tourist destination, but that’s exactly what Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s newest employee will do.

As the newly hired tourism coordinator, Heidi Murray will have to have an open mind about the area. She was born in Austin, grew up in Hollandale and now resides in Albert Lea.

“I really have to view it two ways,” Murray said.

As a nearby resident, and possibly a future Austin resident, Murray will always view the area as home, but now she has to sell the area, as well. Austin CVB’s former employee, a marketing coordinator recently left the part-time position. But now the position has been expanded to full time and entails more duties.

“Our product is Austin, and that is promoting everything that we have and all the great attractions and just the hospitality of our town,” said Austin CVB’s executive director, Cheryl Corey.

But Murray is excited to make Austin one of her products. She completed her communications degree at Florida Gulf Coast University and is surprised to land a job so close to home.

Her husband, three-month-old daughter and close family live in the vicinity and allow her to smoothly transition into her career.

Murray, who started her position Monday, will spend the next week or more familiarizing herself with Austin’s tourist spots. She’s noticed a lot has changed since she’s been in Austin, especially the market for motor coach tours.

According to Corey, 161 motor coach tours visited Austin last year, and even more came in 2009. Corey said if Murray can bring in as many tours as last year, it would be a huge success. That may be a possibility as the economy picks up. Austin offers lower prices on amenities than some of the bigger cities while offering nearly as much to do, Corey added.

“We already have really good tourism, and we want to grow it even more,” she said.

Among all of Austin’s stores, events and celebrations, consumers outside the county generated $15 million in the city last year.

And with The Ride Across Minnesota for MS traveling through town in July, Murray will get a chance to put her knowledge of resorts, hotels and hospitality to work with the influx of visitors.

“That’s always been an interest of mine,” she said.

Although learning in Fort Meyers, Fla., may have offered her more opportunities to explore the tourism industry, she’s eager and confident to start work in Austin.

“I’m going to try to get as involved as possible,” she said.

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