New Visitor Center Director To Market City, Region

Times West Virginian

by Alexis McDaniel, Staff Writer

BRIDGEPORT (Friday, August  03, 2001)

Gabriel Scott Fiest has a challenge ahead of him. He’s embarking on new territory as the head of the Greater Bridgeport Convention & Visitors Center. But Fiest has some positive qualities on his side. 
His last position as the recreation manager at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling was newly created and he was successful in improving visitor numbers there. 

And he knows this area quite well. He is a 1990 Bridgeport High School native, who was active in parks and recreation activities before he moved away. He attended West Virginia University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1995 in recreation and parks management.

His resume includes a long list of supporting activities in his field. Plus, he’s excited to meet leaders in the community. “I look forward to working with any local group, not just in Bridgeport, but all over the county to get the word out,” Fiest said.

Fiest started his position in July. His office is in the parlor of the Benedum Civic Center. The city created the Greater Bridgeport Convention & Visitors Center to market the region, as well as its proposed 10,000-square-foot conference center at Charles Pointe. Charles Pointe is a planned community consisting of hotels, restaurants, high-tech housing, shopping and office complexes and parks facilities near Interstate-79 and the airport.

A key factor in promoting the plan was hiring a director for the project. The funding is provided by the city’s share of the hotel/motel tax. This money used to go to assist another CVB agency, which has now been closed. However, the old phone line, 842-7272, is being retained by the new center in Bridgeport.

So far, Fiest has been setting up his office, working on advertising projects, a new Web site and networking. For example, he’s created the CVB’s new logo and pulled together a cooperative ad for the Travel Guide, which has a circulation of 350,000. 
He recently toured Charles Pointe to discuss future plans, but said no timeline has been announced. He’s also met with the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce.

The parlor is home to racks of brochures. The racks were donated by JCPenney, he said. For now, Fiest is working at a makeshift desk, but a new desk is on its way. People will be able to access the center at any time the civic center is open, even if he’s out in the field or not at work. 
He’s already had visitors. Some of them have been looking for interesting places to visit, others used to live in the area and want to see what’s new.

He realizes that it’s the region as a whole, not just Bridgeport, that attracts tourists. He hopes to lure tourists into local facilities and let them explore the area. He knows he’ll be dealing a lot with the directors of area fairs and festivals. “This is your home base and you work your way up and down the Interstate,” he said.