HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — A Florida tour operator spent Tuesday morning in Ashtabula County learning about covered bridges and wineries while sharing ideas on how tourism can reboot during the pandemic.
Daniel Milks, owner of My XO Adventures, is touring the country to check out places that might fit for his brand of tourism. He said his tourism agency operates specifically for small groups of people seeking authentic and cultural experiences.
Milks met with Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival Executive Director Ginger Whitehead and Ashtabula County Convention and Visitor's Bureau Executive Director Stephanie Siegel to discuss tourism and learn more about the area.
Siegel told Milks that people come to Ashtabula County for the covered bridges and the wineries. She said the importance of taking care of local businesses is essential.
Milks agreed saying the way back is first through supporting of local business then branching out. He said that is the case around the globe as people regain their comfortability with a new normal.
"It is no different here than in Italy," he said.
"I am starting with my neighbors and friends," he said of tours he has accomplished in his native Sarasota.
Milks said the trip was to develop relationships in new areas and help promote those areas and share ideas with tourism leaders throughout the country. He said he plans a trip around the country next year, when he would also meet small groups at airports for regional tours as a part of the bigger trip.
After leaving Ashtabula, Milks said he was heading to South Dakota Badlands and hopefully to Montana and Wyoming to make connections for future trips.
Siegel said she is confident in the future of tourism in Ashtabula County.
"I am very optimistic amidst this pandemic," she said.
Tourism surveys indicate 70 percent of the people who answer numerous travel surveys indicate they are planning on some travel this summer.
Milks said he grew up in Erie and remembers trips through northeastern Ohio and remembers the smell of grapes during the harvest season in Ashtabula County.
Siegel and Milks hope the next year create conditions where they might be able to meet again; with tourists.