Cathy Drew, executive director of the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council, and Mike Mills, owner of Buffalo Outdoor Center, were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame on Monday (March 12) at the 44th Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism in West Memphis at Southland Park Gaming & Racing.
The Hall of Fame honor is presented annually to an individual or individuals actively involved in tourism for many years and who have made substantial contributions to the industry.
Drew was born in Batesville and worked for Media Market Inc., a former ad agency that handled the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council account. In this role, Drew helped to design the region’s tabloid publication. She later worked at WRD Entertainment in marketing and graphic design and in 2000 began her career with Ozark Gateway.
Drew’s contributions to the tourist council include converting the traditional tabloid-style publication into a magazine-format regional guidebook, attending several AARP tradeshows to represent the state as a travel and relocation destination, opening a 24/7 welcome center for the region, creating a new regional motorcycling pocket map and guide and improving the region’s website.
She also created a regional golf tournament to help promote the area, established a social media presence for the region and travels the state and southern Missouri to deliver Ozark Gateway publications to visitor information sites. 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 grew up on a farm west of Lowell and later graduated from Rogers High School, Hendrix College and the University of Arkansas Graduate School, and served in the United States Marine Corps. Mills founded 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 over 150,000 hours for the tourism industry and has served more than 3 million guests. Mills has also 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. He was the Director of Arkansas Tourism from 1982 to 1986.
Mills 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.