LAKE ERIE SHORES & ISLANDS, OHIO, November 3, 2020 --- Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands, the destination marketing organization for Erie and Ottawa counties, recently received recognition for its response to the global pandemic during the Ohio Travel Association’s Spirit of Ohio Travel state tourism conference, held virtually October 6-9. Historically, the Ohio Travel Association’s Recognizing Uncommon Brilliance Yearly (RUBY) Awards recognize excellence in Ohio’s travel industry for efforts in advertising, marketing, and public relations. This year, the awards focused on two categories – how the industry has served others and how businesses have pivoted during the crisis – and there was no fee to enter.

The highest honor, a RUBY Award, was received by Lake Erie Shores & Islands in the category “Spirit of Innovation” for a Group Care Package. As group travel began to diminish when the pandemic first hit, the LES&I group accounts team brainstormed options to keep in contact with planners, understanding the importance of engagement with the destination to make sure it remained top-of-mind.  It was determined to send a bit of “Lake Erie Love,” in the form of care packages, to operators/planners/event organizers that the team had worked with in the past or planning events in the future. Fifty packages were sent, consisting of either coffee, candles, or vinegar and oil sets from local partners. The care packages were a great way to bring Lake Erie Shores & Islands to them, since they were not able to travel to us. 

Similarly, the marketing team chose to reach out to travel influencers to be sure they kept Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands at the forefront when planning, even if travel wasn’t immediately possible. It had also been widely shared throughout the industry that when travel did resume, trips close-to-home to familiar places, and to places with numerous outdoor activities and attractions would be the ones consumers would seek. Twenty-one care packages were sent to influential travel writers which included a candle and a window sticker to remind them to “Plan Now. Visit Later,” in hopes they would both visit and recommend the destination. Many influencers have continued to share information on the region without visiting and some have even visited in person recently. This campaign was also recognized with a Certificate of Excellence in the “Spirit of Innovation” category.

A Certificate of Achievement in “Spirit of Innovation” was received for a social media Sports Challenge. This challenge was created to support local sporting events facilities, such as Cedar Point Sports Center, Sports Force Parks, Erie MetroParks, Lakeside Chautauqua, and more, during a time when they were not able to host tournaments. Lake Erie Shores & Islands continues to work closely with sports facilities throughout the region.

One unanticipated way the region was able to drive sports-related benefit this summer and fall was by being able to quickly and efficiently host a number of fishing tournaments that were displaced from other locations. Lake Erie Shores & Islands worked closely with the cities of Sandusky and Huron, as well as with local business owners, to support and bring in such large-scale fishing events as the FLW Bass Pro Circuit and the National Walleye Tour Championship. These events brought significant positive economic impact for the region.

Other OTA Ruby awards were received in the “Spirit of Community” category which recognized how organization served others throughout the year. Lake Erie Shores & Islands received a Certificate of Excellence for its Happy Hour social media campaign and a Certificate of Achievement for its Takeout Tuesday social media campaign, both aimed at supporting local businesses. Another Certificate of Achievement was received for the organization’s new Sports Blog, which highlighted how local sports facilities were responding to state and local health orders to make their facilities safe for competitors and guests.

“Coronavirus has no doubt resulted in a significant downturn in visitors and associated spending in the Shores & Islands,” said Lake Erie Shores & Islands President Larry Fletcher. “I am however confident that because of the innovation and resilience of our tourism industry partners, and our staff team’s work to support them, we will continue to stand strong and move through this to better days.”     

Lake Erie Shores & Islands continues to support the community through a number of efforts including a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign aimed at encouraging overnight stays. By utilizing SEO, we are able to target people who were already looking to travel, and those who had an interest in our region. This campaign continues for the destination, targeting fall and winter visits and showing the variety of seasonal and outdoor opportunities available.

Keep up with fall and winter activities by following Lake Erie Shores & Islands across all social media platforms as well as at