Visit Greater Lima welcomes new director

LIMA — After nearly a quarter century, a new person will be taking the helm at Visit Greater Lima making the case for tourism in Allen County.

Betsy Billingsley, who had served as the director of Downtown Lima, Inc. since 2022, began her new role Tuesday as the director of Visit Greater Lima. Christine Pleva, who had served in that position for 23 years, will work with Billingsley until early May to help make the transition in leadership as seamless as possible.

Pleva said she greatly enjoyed the experience of leading the county visitor’s bureau.

“I can look back on my time here as the best period of my professional life,” she said. “I have been so honored to work with such a supportive board from day one and a wonderful staff, all of them very long-term, dedicated professionals who believe in Lima-Allen County.”

Billingsley’s roots go deep in the area, having grown up in Gomer before obtaining her degree at OSU-Lima and going on to work in marketing for iHeartMedia in Lima and at the Lima Mall before going on to work at Downtown Lima.

“There’s really a sense of community when you stay in the same area for so long,” she said. “We built our lives here, and now it’s just a matter of getting other people to really see what we have to offer and come to enjoy it just as much as we do.”

One of Pleva’s greatest challenges in that role was the recent COVID epidemic that shut down virtually all incoming tourism traffic.

“It was very difficult to get any group or leisure traveler to come to town because no one was going out,” she said. “It was an opportunity for us. Instead of constantly focusing outside of this community to bring people in, we focused inside our community to help our tourism partners because we knew that once COVID was done, we needed to have a stable, productive tourism opportunity here.”

When it comes to looking toward the future, as Billingsley expands her scope from downtown Lima to the entire county, she expressed excitement at making new and deeper connections throughout the county, especially with new attractions like the Rotary Amphitheater and the upcoming aquatic center.

“I’m just really looking forward to reaching out to certain members of the community to see how we can help and what more we can do to make this a viable meeting and tourist attraction,” she said.