Two tourism industry professionals will be inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame at a luncheon March 12 at Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis. The ceremony will be held in conjunction with the 44th Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism March 11-13.
Cathy Drew, executive director of the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council, and Mike Mills, owner of Buffalo Outdoor Center, are slated to receive the honor.
Hall of Fame recognition is presented annually to those “who have been actively involved in tourism for many years and who have made substantial contributions to the betterment of the industry as a whole,” according to a press release from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
Drew, a Batesville native, formerly worked for the ad company Media Market, which handled marketing for the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council. In this role, she helped design the region’s promotional tabloid publication, which Drew later converted to a magazine-style regional guidebook, when she was employed by the council. She later worked at WRD Entertainment in marketing and graphic design, before beginning her career at the council in 2000.
She created a regional motorcycling pocket guide, revamped the Ozark Gateway website and oversaw the opening of a welcome center for the region, according to the department. She also created a regional golf tournament to help promote the area and established a social media presence for the region, according to Arkansas Parks and Tourism.
She is a member of the Arkansas Travel Council, the Ozark Foothills FilmFest board of directors and the Batesville Rotary Club. She also serves as an Independence County Election Commissioner.
Mills founded the Buffalo Outdoor Center in 1976 and expanded it into Arkansas’s first log cabin resort in 1985. With 44 years in the business, he has clocked in more than 150,000 hours and has served more than 3 million guests, according to the Arkansas Parks and Tourism.
Mills grew up on a farm west of Lowell and later graduated from Rogers High School, received a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and a master’s from the University of Arkansas. He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Mills has served 36 years on the Arkansas Travel Council, 36 years on the Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation, 22 years on the Ozark Mountain Region board of directors and 18 years on the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission, according to the department. He has been a board member of America Outdoors for 24 years, served four years on the board of Travel South USA, two years with the Travel Industry Association of America and four years with the Council of Ozark Governors. Mills was a charter member of Arkansas Scenic Highway 7, a founding member of Arkansas Resorts, a commissioner for Arkansas Scenic Rivers, was awarded the Jim DeVito Award from the Ozark Mountain Region and named the Tourism Person of the Year by the Harrison Chamber of Commerce.
He has served as president for many organizations within the tourism industry, including the Ozark Mountain Region, the Arkansas Travel Council, the Arkansas Hospitality Association, Travel South USA, Council of Ozark Governors, the Professional Paddlesports Association and the Buffalo River Foundation. Mills has been featured in publications including National Geographic, Southern Living, Outside, Canoe, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Midwest Living.
More information on the Hall of Fame awards is available by contacting Kristine Puckett at 501-682-1120.
Registration and more information on the 44th Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism is available by contacting the Arkansas Parks and Tourism at 501-324-1521.