Shores & Islands Ohio hosts annual meeting to share accomplishments and recognize industry partners

What is it: Shores & Islands Ohio, the destination marketing organization for Erie and Ottawa counties, hosted its annual meeting April 16. The event allows for attendees to network with peers, listen to guest speakers, and enjoy a luncheon at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions.

Presentations included an opening address from Kalahari Resorts & Conventions General Manager Brian Shanle, who Shores & Islands Ohio recognized for his years of service to the resort, region, and organization, as Shanle served on the Shores & Islands board. Shanle soon will leave the area to manage Kalahari’s newest property in Spotsylvania County, Va.

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions' Brian Shanle was recognized for his contributions to the tourism industry.Award winners

Extraordinary Destination Enhancement Award: This award is given to a local tourism business or organization that makes an outstanding contribution, through partnership and collaboration, to develop, build, and enhance the Shores & Islands Ohio region.

This year’s award was presented to SōLSTAY, formerly known as Pipe Creek Marina. Joe Lisa and his business partners acquired the land in Nov. 2022 and made a “significant capital investment” into the land, according to a press release from Shores & Islands Ohio. SōLSTAY Lodging and Marina was chosen for “being an outstanding partner with Shores & Islands Ohio, engaging with community partners, and aesthetically improving and enhancing a lesser-known location in the destination,” according to the release.

When SōLSTAY’s second phase is complete, its $1.8 million investment “will enhance the visitor experience as well as quality of life for residents,” the release continues.

The improvements will add on five more houseboats, an outdoor common area with game space, an indoor common area with a co-work lounge, improved guest bathrooms, and new directional and informational signage.

SHORE Award: The award, which stands for Superior Hospitality Recognition, was awarded to Darius Watson, leadership development program manager at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. The award allows Shores & Islands Ohio business partners to nominate an individual in the tourism industry who demonstrates “the true spirit of hospitality, customer satisfaction, and commitment to service.”

Watson was recognized for his 18 years at Kalahari and for living the “Kalahari Promise” in every guest interaction. Last year, Watson received more than 194 positive guest reviews, letters, and surveys.

“The SHORE Award recognizes Superior Hospitality, and Darius Watson lives Superior Hospitality,” Shanle said via the release. “He has an unwavering dedication to creating memorable experiences for our guests. Darius anticipates guest needs, many times before they even ask for help, and sometimes before they even know what they need."

Honorable mentions were awarded to Brendan Hipp, director of retail at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, and Patricia Stinson, guest services at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Port Clinton.