If image is everything, the Havelock Tourist and Event Center has a pretty large image sitting right in front of the doors.

If image is everything, the Havelock Tourist and Event Center has a pretty large image sitting right in front of the doors, a Marine Corps jet aircraft.

The tourist center has updated its image with a new logo and redesigned website in an effort to maintain its roots while attracting a larger variety of clients.

"You want it to appeal to everyone, but it can be difficult to appeal to everyone," said Amanda Ohlensehlen, sales manager for the center. "If you think about it, you have maybe a bride and then you have a military person or a corporation that may want to hold a two-day conference. Itís a balancing act when you have such a wide variety of people."

At the heart of the center are the exhibits and aircraft of the Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation. Ohlensehlen explained that the new branding effort celebrates aviation while at the same time appealing to a wider audience.

"We wanted it to fit for a variety of clients, but also inherent to our identity is the aviation exhibits," she said. "We wanted to keep some of the theme that we have here with the aircraft but also show that it appeals to a wide variety of people. But weíre always going to be an aviation exhibit. Itís certainly a niche and a very unique selling point."

The tourist center has 7,200 square feet of available meeting space, with everything from small breakout rooms that can hold eight people, to a larger conference room and the two main halls, that when combined, can accommodate groups up to 800 people.

Ohlensehlen said that flexibility leads to a variety of clients.

"It can be formal. It can be elegant," she said. "Weíve had a wide variety of things such as weddings, galas or fundraisers, so you can have a very elegant event or you can have a very simple, barebones event. It can really fit either side of things."

She said the new website, at www.havelockevents.com, has everything from rate and booking information to links to nearby attractions.

"Obviously in this day and age, strengthening what weíre doing on the web is really where a lot of the focus was and also creating an image or an identity for the facility," she said.

Part of that is an effort to appeal to more business clients.

"Weíve been really trying to reach out to more of our business clients that may want to do something just 8 to 5, a conference, a meeting, a seminar, continuing education. Thatís certainly an avenue for growth," she said. "Our weekends stay pretty booked. Itís during the week that we really have some availability."

That is certainly the case in the next couple of months, with a variety of Marine Corps balls and holiday gatherings.

"Bookings are very, very strong," she said. "In December between Christmas parties and a couple of conferences, we have very few dates available. We have some Sundays, a Monday or Wednesday scattered through, but really weíre having people call and weíre having to give them their fourth or fifth preferred date. If thatís any indication, itís very positive. November is busy for us with Marine Corps balls and some other things, so the next two months are pretty booked."

She said those unfamiliar with the tourist center often give good reviews.

"People who maybe booked the facility from afar or maybe come for an event from a long way always give us very positive feedback," she said. "They like our exhibits; they like our space; they like what we provide. Itís flexible to peopleís needs, and our staff is really friendly and courteous and very helpful. That small-town service that you donít get everywhere else, people like that."

Nate Johnson, head of the local chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees organization, was key in helping bring the groupís state convention to Havelock May 9 to 11 next year. He said at this yearís state convention, members were trying to decide where to hold the next one.

"I raised my hand and stated how about Havelock," he said. "Of course, everyone wanted to know how we can do this without a convention center, and I let them know we do have a convention center with hotels in the area."

Johnson said he expected up to 200 delegates to attend the event, many bringing spouses. Many will be staying at the nearby Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels as well as visiting local businesses and restaurants while in town, adding to the area economy.

As part of the budget process in May, the Havelock Board of Commissioners approved $36,327 ó an increase of $16,327 ó in the tourist centerís advertising budget to pay for the updates to the logo and website as well as an advertising campaign.

"Itís been exciting," Ohlensehlen said of the effort. "Weíre moving forward."

For more information, call the tourist center at 444-4348 or email events@havelocknc.us.