When it comes to visiting the Grand Valley, Barbara Bowman is your guide
In the early ’90s, Barbara Bowman never would have guessed that nearly 20 years later she still would be living and working in Grand Junction.
“I absolutely love my job,” Bowman said. “It’s been such a wonderful opportunity and an honor to represent this community for the past 18 years.”
Prior to moving to Grand Junction, Bowman had a broad background in the tourism industry, including working as a travel agent, tour guide, custom itinerary maker and tourism marketer. Bowman also is a former director of guest services at a resort in Crested Butte.
She moved to Grand Junction to team up with Executive Director Debbie Kovalik of the newly created Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau.
Kovalik gave Bowman a desk and a phone saying “Here, we need business,” she recalled.
As director of sales, Bowman worked hard to build the bureau’s client list. “We had the opportunity to build the bureau from the ground up,” Bowman said.
First, she targeted not only the leisure tourist but also group business that could make Grand Junction a destination for executive meetings and conventions.
Bowman traveled to trade shows to share with potential clients, such as tour operators, meeting planners and lodging suppliers, all that Grand Junction has to offer.
Bowman explained the beauty of the landscape, national parks, recreational opportunities and centralistic location of Grand Junction that was then relatively unknown to the travel industry.
“That has truly been one of the best parts of my job,” Bowman said. “Representing Grand Junction on the statewide, national and international level has just been so fascinating.”
“When people typically think of Colorado, they think of mountains. But we are so much more than that,” she said.
When wine making began in the Palisade area, Bowman and the bureau rebranded the area as Colorado’s wine country.
“That really enhanced the perception that people have,” Bowman said, adding that Grand Junction now is the fourth most popular destination for tourists in Colorado, in large part because of the wine industry.
Grand Junction also is listed in the top seven international destinations in German and European travel brochures.
“There is no greater gift than to see your destination through someone else’s eyes for the first time,” she said of guests who visit the newly remodeled visitor’s center on Horizon Drive.
The bureau also benefited from the population growth and the increased lodging tax in the recent years.
Bowman has been recognized numerous times by her peers for her exceptional hard work for the city of Grand Junction.
In 2008, she was awarded the “Supplier of the Year” award by Colorado Meetings and Events Magazine and was named “Volunteer of the Year” by the National Tour Association.
She received the “Individual Tourism” award for outstanding contribution in Colorado and has served in a variety of capacities on the National Tour Association board.
She was awarded “Employee of the Year” by city of Grand Junction in 1995.
Bowman currently serves as a member of the International Promotions Committee and Governor’s Conference on Tourism Committee for the Colorado Tourism Organization.
After 18 years, Bowman’s job still presents a variety of challenges. She noted the effect of the recent economic downturn on the tourism industry.
“We’re noticing short-term booking and last minute decisions to come to the area,” she said.
Her job also is changing with the inclusion of Internet marketing through the bureau’s site, http://www.visitgrandjunction.com. The Grand Junction bureau was one of the first travel bureaus to use Internet marketing.
“It was pretty gutsy,” Bowman said.
She recently developed the “Know Your Own Backyard Program,” a training program for frontline hospitality employees, such as hotel front desk employees.
The employees are taken for a bus tour of the most popular tourist destinations in the Grand Valley so they can inform tourists of exactly how to enjoy all the Grand Valley offers.
“It’s just been super fun,” she said of the program.
Bowman credits Kovalik and the rest of the staff and volunteers for really making the bureau as successful as it is today.
“They really helped set the vision for this organization, creating new opportunities that will make a proud and positive impact for the community,” she said.