Bob Warren, 61, wasn’t born and raised in Evansville. Nevertheless, he’s still focused on promoting it to others. The executive director of the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau has held his position here for 19 months. In all, however, he’s spent 26 years in the tourism industry, working in four destinations in four states. He and his wife, Vickie, have been married for 27 years. They have two children, Shane and Michelle, and three grandchildren.
City View: What background do you have in tourism?
Bob Warren: I was the director of tourism in Galveston, Texas. In January 2000, I was hired as the president/CEO of the Panama City Beach Florida Convention and Visitors Bureau. I served in that capacity for just short of eight years. In 2009, I was hired to launch a new destination marketing organization in Galena, Ill. I found that organization to be one of my most challenging due to its size along with the fact everything had to be started from scratch. Galena has one major market: tourism.
CV: You owned a full-service destination management company called Island Tours Unlimited before you became a tourism director. How did that experience impact your career in the tourism industry?
BW: There is a long story behind this that I’m very proud of. If there is a bottom line, it’s the fact that I understand the importance of the tourism industry from a private sector perspective. I understand making payrolls and paying for equipment, insurance, bank notes, and everything that goes with owning a business. I fully understand that what we do at the ECVB is about business, economic development, and that the people we serve in the tourism industry are in business to generate profits. They have invested in hotels, restaurants, attractions, and transportation services, and they provide goods and services to our industry. We operate a $523.6 million industry in Evansville and Vanderburgh County. The people we serve count on us to do our jobs, and we work hard to accomplish that task.
CV: What do you like about working for the ECVB?
BW: My wife and I are really enjoying Evansville and Vanderburgh County. I personally enjoy the challenges of promoting Evansville as a premier destination for business and leisure travel. We are a magnificent destination with outstanding assets. The problem we’ve discovered is we are the only ones who know it. We need to tell the world. What I have found most impressive about our community is the warmth, friendliness, and generosity of the people who work and live here.
CV: What are your hobbies?
BW: I enjoy boating, hunting, and an occasional round of golf. Having lived on the Gulf Coast for most of my life, boating is a favorite pastime activity. We have found that the Ohio River is a beautiful asset that should be better utilized for recreation and water-related activities.
CV: What’s one thing about Evansville that you think most people here don’t know?
BW: That would be the importance of tourism to Evansville and Vanderburgh County. Our industry is one of the major legs of our economic chair. Tourism represents $523.6 million in direct expenditures annually, we employ over 6,400 jobs, and we attract over 4.2 million visitors annually. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our other economic partners such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, small business, and the Port of Evansville in driving the economy.
CV: What do you think Evansville lacks?
BW: From my perspective, the two most needed assets in the tourism industry are the convention center hotel to support the 280,000-square-foot Centre and a high-quality sports facility that will enhance the quality of life for our community while providing benefits to the tourism industry. The announcement on Jan. 23 that we have selected a developer for the convention center hotel is great news for our organization. In most destinations across the country, the meetings and conventions markets serve to generate millions of dollars in local economic impact. The ECVB, working in cooperation with SMG (the Centre) and the new hotel management team, should produce direct spending from the meetings and conventions markets with estimates of $8 to $12 million annually. Our team has a plan. We are ready to launch our promotions and sales of the convention center and hotel the minute we have a groundbreaking and a target completion date.
CV: How far have you traveled to tell people about Evansville?
BW: Most of my travel is local, regional, and state. We do, however, send our staff nationally in the promotion of tourism of our great destination. We promote, tour and travel, (take part in) conventions and meetings, (and promote) social, military, education, religious, fraternal, sports, special events, and leisure travel.