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Pocono Mountains new tourism chief talks tech and trends

Christopher Barrett
Christopher Barrett

The Pocono Mountains are a popular place to visit.

No one knows that better than Christopher Barrett, the new president and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.

“There are many strong regions to visit the region,” Barrett said.

He pointed to national parks, golfing, resorts, water attractions and of course -- skiing as some of the many reasons people choose to head to the Poconos for their vacation getaways.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean his job will be an easy one.

Following 10 years of leadership under the now-retired Carl Wilgus, the bureau has grown its profile as it’s seen a great increase in development in the region’s tourism attractions.

That growth means change, said Barrett and managing that change is what he sees as he takes the reins of one of the largest tourism authorities in the state.

“What we need to do is give consumers easier tools so they can actually find these assets in the region and get there,” Barrett said. “Meld the things that always worked with the new things.”

By new things, he means technology and social media. Coming from his most recent job as executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Target Media and Target Digital in Harrisburg, he said much of his efforts with clients has been converting them to be digitally driven in their marketing efforts.

He said the Poconos will see more of that moving forward.

He noted that like other tourism destinations he’s worked for, like Hersey Park and Dutch Wonderland, Poconos tourism is very event driven.

He said he’d like to see even easier to use events listings online and in social media to get out the word on what’s going on.

Of course it’s also important to stay on top of the latest event trends.

For example, he said wine and beer tasting events have long been popular draws to the region, but now they are starting to see more events centered around spirits that have been successful in drawing large crowds.

Barrett said with its abundant nature, activities and location, the Poconos will always be primarily a tourism destination.

“We’re close to markets that are large population centers, and sometimes those people like to get out of those markets,” Barrett said.

He said the bucolic Poconos can be a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

But the proximity to such high population centers is something Barrett said he’d like to use to bolster what he sees as the next big growth area for the Poconos – conventions and trade shows.

He said the Poconos has traditionally lagged behind urban areas like New York and Philadelphia in snagging some of the larger, national conventions.

But now that the region has massive new resorts such as Kalahari Resort and Conventions and Camelback Mountain Resort, Barrett said the Poconos is better equipped to lure in larger events and the dollars they bring.

Barrett started his post April 17.

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