How Harriet Tubman’s Legacy Lives On, with Karen Kuhl

Episode 295

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Karen Kuhl is the Executive Director at Cayuga County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is a tourism and management professional with hospitality and F&B experience and has 15 years of experience as a tourism destination manager. As the former Director of Tourism and Hospitality Operations for Selva Negro Ecolodge and as Owner of Tastefully Nicaragua, she focused on sustainable tourism in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Her responsibilities included: marketing, sustainability certification process, human resources, long-term planning, and itinerary management. Karen’s experience in the public and private sectors makes her an excellent advocate for the Cayuga County CVB’s role in marketing and product development in the tourism industry.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Karen Kuhl, Executive Director for the Cayuga County CVB. Karen shares the programs her destination is currently working on and how their offerings are evolving as they dive deeper into how the internationally known abolitionist Harriet Tubman lived and worked in the region. Karen’s team is also making a significant impact in DEI in the rural community and championing and supporting economic development as much as possible.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Where in the world Karen has worked, and what brought her back to the US
  • An overview of Cayuga County, where it sits, and what it offers
  • The importance of Harriet Tubman to Cayuga County and Auburn and how the CVB is using the significance of this historical figure to stand out from the crowd
  • Why it’s critical to build a solid foundation of DEI
  • Their Harriet Tubman initiatives and how they are evolving
  • How Cayuga County is promoting and elevating Black-owned businesses in their community
  • The challenges and obstacles Karen has worked through and creative solutions that have helped her team navigate them

An Important Legacy

Karen describes how her destination, the Cayuga County CVB, draws visitors in through their connection to the internationally famous American Abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, and how they use that link to elevate and support economic development in the region. We discuss how Karen and her team live Harriet Tubman’s legacy in Auburn by ensuring that the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusivity were built into the DNA of their organization.

An Evolving Story

The visitor experience in Auburn is a thriving story that continues evolving as the CVB finds out more and more about the businesses that were in town while Harriet Tubman would have engaged with them. Karen has also made a concerted effort to identify the broader individual Harriet Tubman was and uncover the human connection that so beautifully reveals all the facets of her character from the conductor of the Underground Railroad to a military leader, spy, nurse, and forager.

We discuss why it’s important as a destination marketer to appreciate all facets of why visitors might want to connect with a historical character and how CVBs can form partnerships that help them dig through the data to paint a fuller picture.

Authenticity and Purpose

Karen shares how her organization works with local businesses and community leaders to share their message, including putting together a grant to support the promotion of events around the Harriet Tubman bicentennial year in 2022. We also dive into why the tourists of today and tomorrow are traveling with a focus. And the importance of building a solid and authentic foundation as a destination and living it through your decisions.


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