She had only been on the job 4 and a half hours and she was already fielding questions as to how she was going bring visitors to the area.
But for Chi Eastin, Fort Madison’s new tourism director, that came naturally. She’s been promoting the area for the years.
For the last four years, as general manager of The Kingsley Inn, Eastin has planned events, both at the hotel and in the community, to entertain residents and bring visitors to town, and has more than a decade of experience in the hospitality industry.
She moved into her office, which for now is at the Fort Madison Partners office in the Cattermole building on Seventh Street, Tuesday morning and says she has a quite a to-do list to complete before May when the heaviest part of the tourism season begins.
First, she aims to focus on what she calls the “5 A’s of Tourism” – Amenities, Access, Accommodations, Attractions and Activities – particularly with regard to the Lake Cooper Loop. This loop is the local section of the Mississippi River that contains 30,466 acres of aquatic habitats and a scenic 50-mile loop passing through Iowa and Illinois, located between Keokuk’s Lock 19 and Fort Madison’s swing span bridge.
“I’m going to be working with Montrose, Keouk, Nauvoo, Hamilton. I’ve got to find something in Niota,” she told Rotarians at their luncheon meeting Tuesday.
Eastin, along with Kirk Brandenberger, director of the Keokuk Convention & Tourism Bureau, and others, have been working on the loop concept and regional approach to tourism the last few years, and put on the first River & Rails Weekend in 2021.
It has since become an annual event, with this year’s slated for April 27-29.
Eastin and Brandeberger will also be taking their annual trek to Salt Lake City, Utah next weekend – a trip they take by train for 30 hours – to promote the Lee and Hancock Counties and connect with vendors and promoters.
In addition to trips to Salt Lake City and the Iowa Tourism Conference in March, Eastin said she will be touring all local motels and sites to get an updated, and more comprehensive view of what amenities are available.
Although she is familiar with many of the motels, she said she wants to check out the bed and breakfast and Airbnb sites, and gather information about banquet facilities, venues, and the number of rooms available at each site.