Ashleigh Bachert hired as Fort Smith tourism director

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,013 views 

Ashleigh Bachert of Tulsa was named the new executive director of Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), according to the Fort Smith Advertising & Promotion Commission, which oversees CVB operations.

“We are very happy to have Ashleigh as the new leader of Fort Smith tourism,” A&P chairman Storm Nolan said. “She is a bright, action-oriented individual with exciting ideas about bringing more travelers to the Fort Smith area. She impressed everyone who met her during the interview process, and her start is well-timed with the opening of the U.S. Marshals Museum.”

According to Nolan, Bachert will begin her role at FSCVB as early as mid-September. Her base salary will be $132,000. Bachert will lead a staff of four charged with marketing Fort Smith as a business, leisure and convention destination. The FSCVB also operates Miss Laura’s Visitor Center, located at 2 N. B St. in Fort Smith.

The CVB collected $1.13 million in hospitality tax revenue n 2022, up 18% compared with the previous year. The revenue comes from a 3% lodging tax. Fort Smith is also the principal city in Sebastian county, which generated $987,536 in 2022 from Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax. The 2022 tally was up 19.7% compared with 2021 revenue.

Bachert might not start her time with the city until mid-September, but she is already making plans. During her first two months at CVB, Bachert intends to spend time with CVB employees and stakeholders, learn and develop what makes Fort Smith special, and what challenges exist.

Ashleigh Bachert, incoming executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau

“I’ll be going on tours, exploring the community and starting to put together initial thoughts on the most pressing matters impacting the business so we can start planning our next steps,” she said.

She said she believes Fort Smith is truly a hidden gem with a lot of momentum, which is a testament to the community and its leaders.

“The team will continue to elevate the community’s message of being welcoming, affordable, and unique. From our sales to marketing efforts, we will strive to highlight the community’s story in a way that best resonates with visitors to encourage visitation while increasing quality of life for residents,” Bachert said.

She had the opportunity to present a 90-day plan to the selection panel during her interview in Fort Smith Friday (Aug. 25), during which she said she really focused on listening.

“There is only but so much you can learn off a couple of visits and internet research, so listening will be crucial to long-term success,” she said. “However, I know that there are some advocacy issues that will need to be addressed to help build visitation in the future, as well as strategic planning for the destination. I’m big on community shared value and making sure that what we do is supported by the residents – ultimately making life better for those who live, work and play in Fort Smith daily. I’m naturally a competitive person, so my ultimate goal is to find ways to keep Fort Smith uniquely itself while increasing our market share of visitation.”

Bachert replaces Tim Jacobsen, who resigned March 20. Jacobsen was hired in November 2020 with an initial salary of $115,000. Longtime journalist and community promoter Lynn Wasson was named interim executive director March 24. Though Wasson did apply for the position, she was not named a finalist in the search for the new executive director.

Bachert is the vice president of operations for Tulsa Regional Tourism, a position she has held since August 2022. In this role, she directed the organization’s data and sales teams. To date for fiscal year 2023, Bachert’s data and sales strategies achieved 134.8% of the organization’s annual room night goal, a news release said. She has been with Tulsa Regional Tourism since 2020. She was the interim senior vice president of regional tourism from February to August 2022 and the vice president of sales and experiences from January 2020 to February 2022.

Prior to her tenure in Tulsa, Bachert worked in tourism-related leadership positions in Durham and Jacksonville-Onslow, N.C.