Executive Focus: Rachel Shaw, Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau

Rachel Shaw began working for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce in May 2011 as the Director of Destination Marketing. In 2019, she became the Executive Director of the Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau. Shaw serves as Treasurer of the Arkansas Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and serves on the board of the Heart of Arkansas Regional Tourism Association.  

Most people don’t think of Conway as a tourist destination. How would you describe Conway’s visitor economy? 

While we don’t have many tourists, we do have a lot of visitors. Our annual restaurant and hotel economy is now approximately $300 million. Most of our visitors come for one of a few reasons: to visit one of our three colleges, for business travel, or to shop and dine. Conway is also the busiest location for youth sports in Arkansas, thanks to our award-winning baseball and softball complexes.  

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is in the process of rebranding. What is motivating the change?  

Conway has always been more of a visitor destination rather than a tourist destination. My goal in updating the brand is to make that clear to the people we serve. We want to introduce ourselves as Visit Conway. We want people to understand our work — that goes beyond people coming in for large group meetings or events.  

Describe the work that Visit Conway does to grow our visitor economy.  

As the primary marketer of our town, Visit Conway works to attract visitors through the leisure market, sports market, and meetings market. We attend trade shows to meet with these specific interest groups, and advertise through local, statewide, and national publications, as well as through our owned social media outlets.  

Visit Conway is funded by Advertising and Promotion tax dollars, so a large part of the work is also focused on providing grants to organizations that are bringing people to Conway. Each year, we give out close to $150,000 in grant funding to support marketing efforts and operations of events ranging from a small 5K or art exhibit to the largest festival in the state, as well as numerous sporting events.  

What are some current or short-term projects CVB/Visit Conway is working on? 

We want to complete the rebrand from the Conway CVB to Visit Conway. As part of the rebranding, we are building a new website that I hope will be a first stop for visitors when they are planning their trip to Conway. We are also partnering with the city to pay for some needed maintenance to the Welcome to Downtown Conway archway sign. With the addition of the new soccer facility opening this year, we will also be working to recruit more soccer tournaments to town.  

What are the long-range plans or goals for CVB/Visit Conway?  

I would love for Visit Conway to become a widely recognized brand locally and statewide. As Conway grows, our visitor economy will continue to grow as well. My hope is that growth will lead to the development of a convention center and partner hotel so that we can host more large meetings in town. We will also continue to add quality of place-focused amenities that will attract new people to Conway while providing entertainment for our returning visitors and residents.  

Read more in the 2024 CONWAY+ Community Profile & Resource Guide

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