Meet the new Executive Director of Explore Flint & Genesee: Amari Steward

FLINT, Michigan — On January 23, Flint native Amari Steward was announced as the new Executive Director of Explore Flint & Genesee, a division of Flint & Genesee Group. Explore Flint & Genesee is a destination marketing organization that serves all tourism needs, promotes the region, and builds community pride for those who live in and travel to Flint.

Steward was previously a senior sales manager for Explore Flint & Genesee and has been with the company since 2016. Throughout her career, she has devoted time to help bring meetings and events to the local area, including the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament which returned to Flint in 2021.

“We are very pleased to find such quality talent for this position within our own organization,” says Tim Herman, Chief Executive Officer of Flint & Genesee Group. “We employ exceptional individuals here at the Group and I can’t wait to see Amari’s continued success in her new role.”

Flintside had the opportunity to speak to Steward about her new role, and what makes the community of Flint one worth working in, living in, and traveling to. 

Flintside: Congrats on your new role as Executive Director of Explore Flint & Genesee. What experience and background do you bring to this position?

Amari Steward: "I have been working for Explore Flint & Genesee for the past six years and before that, I had 10 years in the hospitality industry working for hotels across the Midwest. Along with that, I was born and raised in Flint & Genesee. Who better to tell the story of our area than someone who lives, works, and plays here?"

Flintside: What is the vision of Explore Flint & Genesee?

A. Steward: "Our team is tasked with attracting visitors and increasing tourism dollars in our area. One of the ways we do this is by working to change the perception of Flint & Genesee by promoting our many community assets."

Flintside: Which partnerships and projects have you worked on that you are most proud of?

A. Steward: "I am proud of many of the partnerships and projects that I have worked on. One that stands out is our continued partnership with the FireStix College Exposure Tournament which is hosted in Genesee County each year. Last year, the tournament accounted for 500 room nights, had an economic impact of over $900k, and supported 211 jobs throughout the county. It brings visitors from throughout the state of Michigan to Genesee County and I am proud that we have been able to sustain that group here for so long."

Amari Steward at the Meeting Professionals International Spring Summit in March 2022. FlintsideFlint is known as a resilient city. How do you describe the character of the community?

A. Steward: "To me, the character of Flint can be found in the continued community support and how our citizens rally to uplift and support each other. Whether it’s supporting a locally owned small business like Drinks of Essence which opened a location downtown recently or supporting larger events like the Gus Macker coming back to the community and all of the support from volunteers, players, and spectators. That is what I have always loved about the community. We stick together and fight for what we believe in."

Flintside: In thinking about increasing tourism, what are some lesser-known locations or ‘hidden gems’ that would make a good introduction/impression of Flint to first-time visitors?

A. Steward: "As a Certified Tourism Ambassador, when I have someone coming to the area, I make sure I gear their experience toward their interests. For example, for craft beer and wine lovers, I would direct them toward Almar Orchard in Flushing which produces JK Scrumpy Hard Cider, a locally made product that is distributed across the country. For art lovers, I would take them on a mural tour to show all the great work that Flint Public Art Project does in the area. For car heads, I would definitely bring up GM’s Dort Durant Factory One so that they could take in the automotive history of Flint. There are unique things for everyone here."

Flintside: What makes Flint a special community in which you’re honored to represent and serve?

A. Steward: "I believe the community is what makes Flint special. Their spirit and dedication give me such inspiration. I also think Flint is such a unique place. You have all the big city amenities here such as the largest county parks system in the state, the second-largest fine arts museum, and a world-class cultural center, but you have the feel of a small town."

Amari Steward at the 2022 Vehicle City Gridiron Classic press conference. Flintside: The Flint & Genesee Group has a goal of making Flint a top-five community in Michigan by 2040. What steps need to be taken in order to make this goal a reality?

A. Steward: "There are many different people working toward this vision. In our lane, Explore Flint & Genesee works toward increasing the number of visitors coming to the area and increasing tourism spending that brings new money into our local economy. We also help change the perception of our area which in turn makes Flint & Genesee a potential place for people to want to live. Of course, we aren’t the only drivers of this, but we are intentionally assisting where we can."

Flintside: Looking ahead, what are some projects you’re excited to launch or continue working on?

A. Steward: "I am excited about the new meetings we are attracting to the area such as the Michigan Museum Association which will meet here later this year. It is a great way to highlight our area to new people and show off our great amenities. I am also excited to welcome back groups that are able to gather again this year."

Flintside: What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

A. Steward: "I hope to continue the great work that we have been doing for years. I have a great team at Explore Flint & Genesee and I am honored to be able to lead us into this new year."
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.