Tourism Organization Shares Accomplishments, Recognizes Industry Partners

SANDUSKY, OHIO, April 17, 2024 --- Shores & Islands Ohio, the destination marketing organization for Erie and Ottawa counties, held its annual meeting on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. The more than 220 in attendance enjoyed a presentation, multiple guest speakers, and a luncheon in the convention center’s River Rooms.

The presentations opened with a welcome from Kalahari Resorts & Convention’s General Manager, Brian Shanle. Shores & Islands Ohio recognized Shanle for his years of service to the resort, the region, and the organization, having served on our board. Shanle is moving to open and manage Kalahari’s newest property in Spotsylvania County, VA later this year.  

Next, Shores & Islands Ohio President Larry Fletcher recognized all the Shores & Islands Ohio staff members, board and committee members, and elected officials in attendance. He then highlighted the organization’s accomplishments in 2023, some marketing initiatives for 2024, and provided a look at some of the many new experiences in our area available to visitors and residents that have come on line recently or will soon.

Sarah Wickham, State Tourism Director with the Ohio Department of Development, joined and shared an update on Ohio tourism accomplishments and plans for 2024 and beyond.

The annual meeting concluded with the organization’s annual hospitality award presentations, recognizing both a business and an individual for their exceptional effort, collaboration, and customer service to visitors throughout the past year.

The Extraordinary Destination Enhancement Award is awarded to a local tourism business or organization makes an outstanding contribution, through partnership and collaboration, to develop, build, and enhance the Shores & Islands Ohio region. It is presented to a partner that truly embraces Shores & Islands Ohio as a destination and brand. The Extraordinary Destination Enhancement Award was presented to SōLSTAY.

Formerly known as Pipe Creek Marina, Joe Lisa and his business partners acquired the land, located in Sandusky, in November 2022. While the property was well-situated, the run-down marina was in need of significant capital investment. Officially opening in May 2023, SōLSTAY now provides economic impact to the region and operates with several full-time employees.

SōLSTAY Lodging and Marina is being recognized for being an outstanding partner with Shores & Islands Ohio, engaging with community partners, and aesthetically improving and enhancing a lesser-known location in the destination. When their second phase is complete, their $1.8 million investment will enhance the visitor experience as well as quality of life for residents. They are in process of building five more larger houseboats, creating a new outdoor common area with game space, building a new indoor common area with a co-working lounge, improving guest bathrooms, and creating new directional and informational signage.

Finally, the SHORE Award, standing for Superior Hospitality Recognition, was awarded. This award allows Shores & Islands Ohio business partners to nominate an individual in the tourism industry who demonstrates the true spirit of hospitality, customer satisfaction, and commitment to service. The nominees go beyond their standard job description to enhance the guest experience, contributing to the overall destination success.

An Honorable Mention was awarded to Brendan Hipp, Director of Retail at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. A second Honorable Mention was awarded to Patricia Stinson, Guest Services at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Port Clinton.

The 2024 SHORE Award was presented to Darius Watson, Leadership Development Program Manager at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. Darius was recognized for 18 years of commitment to Kalahari and living the “Kalahari Promise” in every guest interaction. Last year, Darius received over 194 positive guest reviews, letters, and surveys – an unprecedented amount!

“The SHORE Award recognizes Superior Hospitality, and Darius Watson LIVES Superior Hospitality! He has an unwavering dedication to creating memorable experiences for our guests. Darius anticipates guest needs, many times before they even ask for help, and sometimes before they even know what they need,” said Brian Shanle, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions General Manager. “Darius Watson’s service is legendary, and he is very deserving of receiving the distinguished honor of the SHORE Award. I encourage all of us to take inspiration from Darius’s exemplary work and strive to emulate his commitment to excellence in all that we do!”

Shores & Islands Ohio would like to congratulate all of our 2024 award winners and thank Rock & Roll Express for providing sound and technical services and Kalahari Resorts & Conventions for hosting.


Photos courtesy of Shores & Islands Ohio