People on the Go
Kim Bennett, president and CEO of Visit Vancouver USA, has announced her upcoming retirement, leaving behind a legacy of tourism promotion and economic growth. Bennett first took the reins in 1999, after serving as executive director at the Camas Washougal Chamber of Commerce and working in a law office. She built the organization from the ground up—from a staff of one to its current marketing and business development operations of nine full-time positions and various agency contractors. Bennett oversaw a period of rapid expansion for the local tourism community, including the formation of the Tourism Promotion Area, the construction of the Hilton and Vancouver Convention Center, the rise of East Vancouver hotels near the Columbia Tech Center, and the unveiling of Gramor Development’s $1.5 billion Waterfront project. Bennett received multiple gubernatorial appointments throughout her career, including serving as Co-Chair of the former Washington State Tourism Commission and as a board member for the Washington State Film Commission. She is a Past Board President of both DMA West and the DMA West Foundation. Her last day at the DMO will be June 30. A search committee comprised of Visit Vancouver USA’s board members will lead the search for her replacement.
The boards of directors of Travel Tacoma + Pierce County and Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission announced a merger in early January 2019 of the two organizations. Dean Burke was named president and CEO of the joint organization. The merger allows the two organizations to improve efficiency and return-on-investment by sharing operating expenses while jointly marketing Pierce County as a destination for leisure tourism, meetings and sporting events. Tourism is a major economic engine in Pierce County and brought more than $1.2 billion into the local economy in 2017. In seven years at Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission, Burke developed outstanding support from stakeholders and grew the commission’s reputation as a valuable resource. He helped Pierce County communities develop a vision for a collective sporting-event strategy while bringing in events that contributed millions of dollars in economic impact to those communities.
Lorne Edwards has been promoted to senior vice president of Convention Sales & Services at Visit Phoenix. Edwards previously served as vice president of Convention Sales & Services and director of sales at the organization; he has been with Visit Phoenix since 2012. His career also includes more than 20 years with Hyatt Hotels in sales and marketing positions.
Emily Forsha began her destination marketing career at Travel Lane County in 2010 and returned to the DMO in late January 2019 following a stint with Travel Oregon as the organization’s content and community manager. Forsha is the new vice president of integrated marketing at Travel Lane County. She will lead the integrated marketing team and will be responsible for overseeing brand management, managing print publications, such as the Eugene, Cascades & Coast visitor guide and dining guide, manage all photo and video assets, and will have primary responsibility for development and ongoing management of databases and websites. Forsha replaces Sally McAleer, who recently retired after 22 years with Travel Lane County.
Michelle McKenzie recently joined Visit Vancouver USA as director of marketing. Most recently, McKenzie served nearly five years in consumer marketing at Travel Portland. In her role as marketing manager there, she oversaw a destination rebranding effort, implemented annual marketing campaigns and managed Portland Dining Month. Her new role will similarly include overseeing marketing campaigns and initiatives, leading the Creative Team, directing social media efforts and continuing to provide value to hospitality partners and local attractions.
In January, the West Hollywood Travel + Tourism Board appointed James O’Callaghan as executive director of the Sunset Strip and West Hollywood Design District Business Improvement Districts. O’Callaghan is charged with leading the city’s business improvement districts (BIDs) in their efforts to market the two renowned commercial districts and increase engagement and financial success of member businesses. O’Callaghan was most recently the president & CEO of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he was president & CEO of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce and director, Visitor Services, at LA Inc. (now Los Angeles Travel & Convention Board) serving as the bureau liaison for political and civic organizations, focusing on community engagement and activation.
Visit Vancouver USA has hired Chuck Ryder as director of business development. Ryder brings more than a decade of hospitality experience and nearly 30 years of sales background to Visit Vancouver USA. Prior to joining the team, Ryder worked as the director of sales for Santa Cruz Seaside Company, and previously served as the director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Santa Cruz.
In his new role, Ryder will lead the business development and convention services team in its efforts to drive overnight bookings through the solicitation of group business. He will work with hospitality partners in the community to foster relationships with meeting planners and promote Vancouver as a top-of-mind destination for conferences, conventions and events.
Visit Spokane is pleased to announce Meg Winchester, CMP, has been selected as the organization’s new president & CEO. Prior to joining Visit Spokane, Winchester was the director at the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau in Galveston, Texas. She brings decades of convention sales and marketing experience to her role with Visit Spokane. During her tenure in Galveston, Winchester led her team through Hurricane Ike in 2008—a hurricane that devastated the Galveston region. She was instrumental in rebuilding and increasing tourism revenue and visitation year over year.