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YUMA, ARIZONA – The Board of Directors of the Yuma Visitors Bureau made it official at its meeting Nov. 10 – effective immediately, Susan Sternitzke is the new executive director of the nonprofit that promotes Yuma tourism.
Sternitzke had been named YVB’s “interim executive director” May 10, and in the intervening six months launched what she herself termed an “ambitious” program of work for the agency that included assuming responsibility for a full schedule of events previously managed by Heritage Festivals, along with a major new agritourism initiative.
YVB is currently counting down the days to the opening of its Christmas Village at Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, which will offer holiday lights, family activities – and desert ice skating! – daily from Dec. 10 through 30 (closed Dec. 24 & 25).
“Over the last six months, Susan has demonstrated a level of knowledge and expertise that is truly amazing,” said Board Chair Debbie Gwynn. “Her passion and energy in creating and implementing new ideas and programs is just what we needed to give our efforts new life in these challenging times.
“Susan’s imagination and drive are a unique asset to the entire Yuma community, and the Visitors Bureau board feels extremely fortunate that she has agreed to accept the job of executive director going forward,” Gwynn said.
“I’m pleased and gratified by the confidence the board has shown by offering me this job,” Sternitzke said. “My staff and I have worked very hard in the last six months, but that’s easy if you believe in what you’re selling, and we’re all big believers in Yuma.”
The YVB job is something of a homecoming for Sternitzke, who previously worked for the organization in sales and marketing before starting her own business and then taking some time off to start a family.
Sternitzke returned to the workforce with a bang last winter, stepping in to manage Heritage Festivals after the death of it director, Dorothy Young, then spearheading a "fast and furious" local effort to save the Yuma Territorial Prison from closing because of the state’s budget woes.
The new vision Sternitzke has charted for YVB adds up to an annual budget of $1.7 million, less than half of which comes from city hospitality tax funding, with other revenue projected from membership, events, co-op advertising, Visitors Guide, retail sales and tours. Beside the Christmas Village, YVB is launching a new “Spirit of Yuma” military festival in January, helping to market the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association’s Southwest Ag Summit, and revisioning Yuma Lettuce Days with a new culinary twist.
YVB is also partnering with the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area to market and promote the Territorial Prison and Quartermaster Depot park, along with the new Pivot Point Interpretative Plaza and the entire riverfront area.
YVB’s leadership change has not gone unnoticed statewide, with Sternitzke recently appointed to serve as a member of the Governor’s Tourism Advisory Council, which gives policy guidance and direction to the Arizona Office of Tourism.
A one-day sales blitz in October directed at the group tour market, “The Bus Stops Here,” was a huge success, with nearly 100 volunteers making more than 2,000 phone calls to tour operators and group leaders – and “stopping” at least 365 tour operators to take a look at the diverse itineraries Yuma offers. More recently, YVB’s new agritourism efforts were the cover story in the November/December issue of SkyWest magazine, the United Express inflight magazine reaching 2.5 million passengers every month.
It all adds up to what Gwynn says is a new “buzz” and energy throughout Yuma – a change she attributes to Sternitzke’s influence.
“Susan never says never,” Gwynn explained. “When you are talking about promoting your town to the rest of the world, to have that kind of positive energy behind your efforts makes all the difference.
“If there’s such a thing as good vibrations, that’s what we’ve got going – Yuma is just radiating energy, and I think potential visitors feel that.”
The Yuma Visitors Bureau is always happy to assist members of print, digital and broadcast media, either on assignment or pitching an idea with a Yuma angle.
Visit Yuma team can suggest itineraries and facilitate visits, or provide you with the inspired details to help nail down an assignment. We pride ourselves on always going "above and beyond."
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