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MUSCATINE, Iowa — The Muscatine Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) connected with local business owners at a meeting Wednesday.

Representatives from local restaurants, hotels and retail discussed various options for marketing Muscatine, and the CVB hopes to continue updates and meetings to prepare local business owners for upcoming events.

Ky Cochran, director of the CVB, said the goal is to work together to promote the wide variety of options available to visitors to Muscatine, and highlighted some of the events that she expects to bring in business and how the CVB will help promote local businesses in Muscatine.

"The shops where people can shop, the restaurants where people can eat, places where people can stay, anything that a visitor might be interested in we're trying to promote," Cochran said.

On July 23, the Friday the week before RAGBRAI, many people will stay in the city to drop off vehicles, because Muscatine is the last stop. Cochran said that hotels can expect large numbers that weekend, and she will look into the possibility of a shuttle bus to downtown, which was suggested by local business owners.

On July 30, the day the ride will be ending into Muscatine, Cochran said that the hope is they will be willing to stay, eat and explore local restaurants because the last section of the race will be the easiest.

"We're hoping to get them to linger and eat and shop and do most of those things, but they will most likely not stay overnight," she said.

Because RAGBRAI will be the same weekend as Great River Days, they will be sharing the riverfront and Cochran said the two events are working together to ensure they run smoothly, and she will be the hospitality chair, working to promote the city and encourage return visits.

To volunteer for RAGBRAI or for more information contact Janet Morrow at 563-263-8895 or jmorrow@muscatine.com.

One upcoming CVB event is Second Saturday, which they are hoping will take place every second Saturday from June through October on Second Street from Cedar to Pine. They would close the street for the event.

"We will be getting food and non-food vendors set up in the parking spaces on Second Street, leaving the sidewalks and middle of the street clear for people to walk down," Cochran said, "and we're also working to incentivize shopping in our local shops and eating in our local restaurants during the event, it's still in the planning stages."

Cochran said the goal of that event is to promote tourism downtown as well as arts and culture.

Some of the CVB's goals for the 2016-17 fiscal year include improving the Dining and Lodging and Visitors Guides, assisting local businesses in preparing for events and marketing themselves, and providing other tools for businesses and the community to improve the tourism infrastructure in Muscatine.

"We usually do those [guides] yearly, but we pushed it back to 2017 this go-round because we really want to re-evaluate where those are going and make them the best possible product," Cochran said. "We want people to see those and want to come here."

She also said that the guides will be released in January beginning next year, so they will cover one calendar year at a time.

The CVB also hopes to facilitate communication among local businesses so if a visitor asks a hotel about restaurant options, or a restaurant about local shops, they have the resources to direct them to other local businesses.

"A lot of that has to do with communicating between what we're doing, what you guys have going on, what we know is coming up," Cochran said, "so we have things like the CVB newsletter, emails, and our website."

The newsletter will contain updates on local events and businesses around Muscatine, and an annual events calendar can be found at www.visitmuscatine.com/partners. Cochran asked that local business owners contact the CVB if they need more information or have suggestions.

"I want to be giving you all the information you need so that you can be successful and we can be successful in bringing people to Muscatine and making sure they like it here so they come back," Cochran said.

She discussed several free advertising opportunities for local businesses, including www.traveliowa.com, www.visitquadcities.com, www.visitmuscatine.com, and http://mississippiriver.natgeotourism.com/.

National Geographic's website focuses on the Mississippi River area, which Cochran said is an example of the partnerships that are ongoing to promote tourism in eastern Iowa.

Paul Carroll, a member of Friends of the Old Barn and a volunteer with CVB, said remnants of the Downtown Action Alliance will be applying for a mini-grant through the CVB to develop a 30-second commercial to attract people to all the activities occurring in Muscatine.

He also said that the Chamber of Commerce will be developing a long-range marketing plan, which he hopes will assist local businesses.

"This is an exciting time to be in Muscatine," Carroll said.

The CVB plans to continue group meetings to keep in touch with local business owners. For more information or to make suggestions for promoting Muscatine, contact the Muscatine Convention and Visitors Bureau at 563-272-2534, or cvb@muscatineiowa.gov.

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