GO Laurel Highlands Spring Partner Summit speakers included Eric Thompson, Becky Large, Janette Roush, Ann Nemanic, Sarah Benoit, Abbey Way and Laura ArgenbrightLATROBE – Representatives of businesses and attractions from around the region filled the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College on Monday to learn the latest in tourism marketing trends from a slate of national speakers during GO Laurel Highlands’ Spring Partner Summit.

The official destination marketing organization for Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties, GO Laurel Highlands welcomed Janette Roush, executive vice president of marketing and digital for New York City Tourism + Conventions; Sarah Benoit, co-founder and lead instructor for JB Media Institute; Becky Large, CEO of Autism Travel Club and Champion Autism Network; Abbey Way, a content creator and social media manager for Wigle Whiskey; and Eric Thompson, co-founder of Access on the GO.

Daniel Stainer, director of marketing for The Palace Theatre and Westmoreland Cultural Trust, was impressed by the range of speakers and topics covered at the event.

"I found the GO LH Spring Summit to be an ideal forum for unraveling the complexities surrounding key issues confronting modern tourism marketers,” Stainer said. “Covering a wide range of topics including Meta advertising, A.I., Google Analytics, and ADA/accessibility, I gained invaluable insight into industry best practices from top experts in the field. Additionally, I appreciated the meaningful networking connections I made throughout the day. I’ll be back for the next summit.”

Attendees listen during the GO Laurel Highlands Spring Partner Summit

The keynote speaker, Roush focused on “Unlocking the Power of Potential of AI in Tourism,” during which she shared tips on how attendees can get the most out of artificial intelligence programs such as ChatGPT.

Large’s presentation, which helped explain issues that families with autistic children face, made quite an impact on Ashley Howes, who is the membership/digital media specialist for the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.

Becky Large, CEO of Autism Travel Club and Champion Autism Network

“As a parent to someone with lower functioning autism, I never thought that our family – and families like ours – would be a target audience for tourism,” Howes said. “Travel or experiences are something we want to do together as a family, but it’s difficult and has various barriers that outsiders do not understand. Having this topic discussed in full made me feel seen.”

An avid outdoorsman who was left paralyzed by a 2012 accident, Thompson founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access—both indoors and out—for people with disabilities. He spoke about “Creating the Accessible Outdoor Economy.”

Howes plans to share the lessons she learned from Large and Thompson with members of other Fayette County businesses. 

“Having my personal life experiences, I feel that I can help our Fayette Chamber members understand what they can do to be more inclusive, ultimately gaining a new clientele,” she said. “Becky Large presented wonderfully as a general first conversation for this untapped market. I was also excited that physical disabilities were discussed by Eric Thompson. Again, these groups want to do all the things the Laurel Highlands has to offer, but the barriers make it difficult. Expanding our businesses to be fully inclusive to physical and intellectually disabled groups is going to make a real difference in the area and bring a sense of normalcy to the individuals and families affected.”

Laura Argenbright speaks during the GO Laurel Highlands Spring Partner Summit

Benoit delivered a pair of presentations – one focusing on “The Many layers of Meta Advertising on Facebook and Instagram,” and one on “Understanding GA4,” and Way focused on “The Power of Social Influence.”

The annual marketing summit is one of the many educational opportunities offered to partners by GO Laurel Highlands. Businesses looking to join the organization can contact Kelli Brisbane, the group’s director of partnership development, at kbrisbane@golaurelhighlands.com.

About Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands
A magnificent mountainous region, the Laurel Highlands is an outdoor lover’s paradise that spans 3,000 square miles in southwestern Pennsylvania. Located just an hour east of Pittsburgh, the beautiful four-season destination offers spectacular natural scenery, outstanding skiing, hiking, biking and golfing opportunities, historic sites and attractions, family activities and world-class resorts. Notable destinations within the region include four architectural masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright – Fallingwater®, Kentuck Knob, Mäntylä and Duncan House – as well as Nemacolin, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Flight 93 National Memorial, Idlewild and SoakZone, whitewater rafting in Ohiopyle State Park and much more.

Located within 200 miles of the major metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Washington D.C., Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands can be easily accessed from exits 67, 75, 91 and 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Visitors to the Laurel Highlands can find information online at GoLaurelHighlands.com, facebook.com/laurelhighlandsPA and twitter.com/laurelhighlands or by calling 724.238.5661. Established in 1958, GO Laurel Highlands, formerly known as Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, is the official destination marketing organization for Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.