Head four miles west of Colorado Springs and you’ll find yourself in Manitou Springs. It’s a trip Leslie Lewis wants everyone to take, and she wants them to bring their wallets.
As executive director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, it’s her job to market the town.
And with attractions like the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Cave of the Winds and the Miramont Castle, along with unique eateries and boutiques tucked at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, you’d think she has plenty of selling points.
Lewis took time recently to tell CSBJ about herself and her business.
Hometown: Manitou Springs
How long have you lived in the Colorado Springs area: (Cascade) 25 years
Education: Associate degree in business (Travel & Tourism emphasis), Blair Junior College; Graduate of Institute for Organization Management (A U.S. Chamber of Commerce program)
A few words about your company: The Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau is a membership organization representing businesses in Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, Cascade, Green Mountain Falls, Woodland Park, Cripple Creek, Salida, and Canon City. We assist an average of 40,000 visitors in our office each year.
Biggest career break: I had been working for the chamber for seven years when the executive director position became open. I had the benefit of "hands on" learning from two previous directors and had a great working relationship with the board of directors and the membership.
The toughest part of your job: Trying to market Manitou Springs on local, regional and national levels with a very limited budget.
Someone you admire: Mother Theresa, she lived such a selfless life. She was always striving to make life better for those around her and those in need.
About your family: My husband, Steve, is self-employed and serves as the chief of the Cascade Volunteer Fire Department. My daughter is a senior at the University of Northern Colorado.
Something else you’d like to accomplish: Many residents see our office as being here for the visitors. I would like to change that perception to realize that we have resources for their day-to-day needs as well. On a personal level, I would love to explore all of the historic locations on the East Coast with my daughter and the backcountry of Alaska with my husband.
How your business will change in the next decade: The Internet is truly changing the way people plan travel. While we have been on the Internet for many years, we will need to continually expand our presence and encourage all of our business members, no matter how small, to become "Internet savvy."
What book are you currently reading? The Bible.
What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? Colorado Springs has grown too fast for the roadways. The widening of Interstate 25 can’t happen soon enough and will unfortunately be behind the needs even when completed. Additionally, we hear numerous comments about the need for better signage to assist the visitors that we welcome to the area.