Who has been working in Downtown Albany now for years, is well respected, honest, hard-working, and non-controversial? If you’ve spent any time at all dealing with the issues of downtown and tourism development here, you know the answer. She is Lisa Riddle, Director of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The CVB is a department of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, for whom Riddle has worked for five years. She came to the CVB top spot during a difficult time. Former CVB Director Sara Underdown, who recently passed away, was dealing with health issues.
Riddle and others were called on to help manage the workload and keep the momentum going that Underdown had begun. By all accounts, she did just that. She managed the move of the organization into the Albany Welcome Center, the newly renovated historic Bridge House on Front Street, through to its completion, and fostered a positive, pro-growth attitude among the staff. Considering both the internal demands at the time to keep morale up, and the various political issues swirling around Albany, Riddle’s management of the CVB has been one of the bright spots of downtown development.
There is a measurable, feel-good vibe when you walk into the new Welcome Center that is directly traceable to not only the new surroundings, but the people who work there. Riddle says she believes it has generated a new energy and has made them more aware of the true traffic to the RiverFront area, calling it a “tremendous resource”. Although a part of the Chamber, the new location has helped the group stand out more in the community and gain its own identity. “We work together, but yet have two different missions. The CVB works hard every day to bring people to town to generate economic impact for the city”, says Riddle.
Before being hired by the Chamber, Riddle worked for seven years in sales at The Albany Herald. She is a Darton and Florida State graduate, with a degree in management. Combining that knowledge and experience with a very approachable style that is well-suited to the task of bringing visitors to Albany, Riddle seems to be in her element, saying, “My job is most exciting because I get to share all of Albany’s good qualities and fantastic attractions to the many visitors in town, and potential visitors around the region.”
She also understands that hard times demand more from the CVB staff.
“With the downturn in the economy, we have to work harder to create more ‘heads in beds’ to generate more hotel tax revenue that allows us to advertise and get the word out about Albany,” she said.
The CVB provides groups and individuals planning a visit, information on local hotels, event facilities, and caterers. Groups planning events that generate overnight stays will find welcome bags from the CVB in their rooms. Riddle sees the organization as the “front door” of Albany.
Riddle said the biggest misconception she sees comes from the people who live in Albany who think that the downtown area is not safe.
“That is so far from true,” she said. “Come for a visit anytime and you will see that the downtown and RiverFront Park area is very safe and family friendly.”
Riddle says that she and her staff deal with the challenges of the local political scene by staying focused on their work. “We try to focus our efforts on keeping the good news out in the community and to our visitors. It’s not a hard job because we have a tremendous positive energy at the Welcome Center and all are very dedicated to making Albany a destination city for visitors,” she said.
The CVB is applying for destination marketing organization accreditation and planning for the Oct. 3 International Festival at RiverFront Park. Riddle urges locals and visitors to check out the SWGA Events calendar at www.visitalbanyga.com and recommends they visit the Welcome Center gift shop at 112 N. Front St. for valuable and interesting information as well as Albany souvenirs.
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant. Find him online at AlbanyOnPoint.