As Director of Yankton’s Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), Nebraska-born Kasi Haberman passionately promotes South Dakota.

As one of four recipients of the 2020 South Dakota Department of Tourism’s Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Award, she has been recognized in the region for “remarkable service to every visitor (she) encounters” and the “outstanding spirit of hospitality, warmth and genuine kindness” she shows in her work.

“I didn’t recognize my passion for marketing until a general manager in a past workplace encouraged me to pursue it,” Haberman says. “The nudge I was given to take on some marketing challenges helped me gain the experience and confidence I needed to take on my current responsibilities.”

Growing up in Crofton (NE), Haberman was familiar with Yankton and the tourism opportunities found here. After her husband’s stint in the Navy and residing in Omaha a few years, they were both ready to return to their hometown roots.

“The tourism industry is highly competitive,” Haberman says. “One of the biggest challenges we face here is limited funding, which inhibits our ability to market to travelers. We work hard to determine what local attributes cause us to stand out from other destinations. Finding ways to let others know how fantastic we are is our priority and we know those kinds of activities drive visitation.”

Limited staff constantly challenges the CVB to effectively communicate with local businesses that might host events which bring large numbers of visitors to the community. Partnering with those businesses increases potential for maximizing benefits to both the visitors and local community.

“If a local event brings 500 visitors to Yankton, we want to showcase elements like our camping, recreation and shopping opportunities,” Haberman says. “We strive to help businesses here understand how we can partner to make visitors’ time here a memorable experience.”

The natural beauty of Yankton and the surrounding area are one of the assets Haberman appreciates as she works to promote the community. She admires the vision and potential local residents often voice for the area.

“The appeal of this area is very organic,” Haberman says. “It’s not something that’s staged to attract visitors. It’s inherent to the region. The foresight of people like Bruce Cull, who was instrumental in making Yankton the Archery Capital of the world, is inspiring.”

Haberman also points to the work of the Yankton County Historical Society in developing the Mead Cultural Education Center and Mount Marty College as they complete a field house and establish a football team. Both are examples of local visions that are transforming the Yankton community.

“We have awesome entrepreneurs such as Ryan Heine’s family, who has developed a hops farm, the Hunhoffs who are developing an axe throwing attraction, and many others,” Haberman says. “We are fortunate to have these creative people here who are willing to jump in with both feet to help bring visitors here.”

During her tenure as CVB Director, Haberman has helped bring additional world tournaments to the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Complex. She also assisted with the production of a reality show – Fireball Run – which was filmed at various area locations.

“I try to take advantage of every available opportunity,” Haberman says. “Working together with South Dakota Department of Tourism to diversify marketing efforts has been very beneficial, too.”

On a personal note, Haberman encourages local youth – like her own 17-year-old son – to explore their options and identify their own passions as they complete their education and begin a career.

“When I graduated from high school, my initial plan was to complete a degree in physical therapy and work as a physical therapy assistant,” Haberman says. “I had no idea of the passion I had for marketing until I began to immerse myself in it.

High school graduates don’t have to make hasty decisions about their career path. I encourage parents to help them listen to their soul and find those things that make them happy and feel fulfilled.”

If adults pursue a career without the related educational background, learning on-the-job as she did, Haberman recommends that they consider educational opportunities, such as individual courses related to their field or more in-depth formal learning. She also stresses the importance of cultivating confidence in the ability to execute career responsibilities without a formal degree.

“Don’t spend too much time secondguessing yourself,” she says. “It was fantastic for me when I recognized my interest in this field. I credit those around me who recognized my natural abilities and encouraged me to pursue what I enjoyed. Their support helped me reach the point where I am today.”