From left, Michelle Glass and Mye Renken pose in front of brochures at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Renken is replacing Glass as director for the visitors center. Glass has taken a position with a tourism company based in Washington state.
Photo by Mark Harrison
The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center has a new director for the second time in a year.
Mya Renken begins as the center's new director Monday. Renken is a native of Alaska who has lived in Unalaska for the past 13 years, where, for more than four years, she was the director of the visitors center.
Renken's move to the Kenai Peninsula is something of a homecoming. She grew up on the peninsula and graduated from Kenai Central High School, where she cheered on the school's teams as a mascot.
Renken said now that she's returned, she plans to work to support the city of Kenai in the same way.
"I was cheering behind the scenes (as a mascot), and I've come back to do the same thing for the city," she said.
The challenge in attracting tourists to Kenai is the same as it's always been, to get them to turn at Soldotna, Renken said.
To get motorists to turn down the Kenai Spur Highway, Renken said she plans to start by producing some new brochures that highlight specific areas of interest in Kenai.
It's an idea she's borrowing from Unalaska, where the visitors center developed several brochures highlighting the sportfishing possibilities, as well as the birds, plants and wildlife in the area.
Brochures are a staple of the tourist industry because they're inexpensive and effective, Renken said.
"They're not that expensive to produce and they give people a good idea of what's available," she said.
The brochures and other marketing could be used to show that Kenai is family, as well as fish, friendly.
"Everybody knows about the fishing, we'd like to position ourselves as a place to bring your family," she said.
Renken, who has a degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management from Oregon State University, said another goal is to get more local residents to visit the visitors center -- especially the museum in the cultural center, which houses artifacts from both the Native and pioneer history of Kenai and the peninsula.
Residents who have never visited the center may not realize the quality of the facility, Renken said.
"This is the nicest visitors and cultural center in Alaska," she said.
Former director Michelle Glass joined the center early this year. Glass said she is leaving far earlier than she intended to take a job she couldn't turn down as director of sales and marketing with a private company in the tourism industry.
The company, Alaska Un-usual, is based in the state of Washington, where Glass and her husband will move.
Glass still will be involved in tourism in Alaska, however, since the company she'll work for specializes in custom travel excursions to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
She said one thing she likes about her new position is that she'll be able to continue to market Kenai as a tourist destination.
"I'll definitely continue to speak highly of Kenai and press on for the name recognition Kenai needs ... . You're not getting rid of me yet," Glass said.
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