Jeff Guaracino, the much beloved and widely respected president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, passed away from cancer last week at the age of 48. A native of Philadelphia—he was born in the downtown Jefferson University Hospital—and attended local schools. He served as an intern at KYW Radio and worked at the Franklin Institute for five years. In 2001, he joined Visit Philadelphia (then known as the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation). He gained notice for the programs and campaigns he developed that built LGBTQ tourism in the area.
In 2012, Guaracino became the CEO and executive director of the Atlantic City Alliance, where he worked for four years. He returned to Philadelphia in 2016 to serve as president and CEO of Wawa Welcome America, and in October 2018 he became President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, leading the organization until his passing. Among the many public tributes paid to Guaracino was that of Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney, who said: “A fierce champion and promoter of his hometown, Jeff was also a proud advocate for the LGBTQ community. With his trademark energy, charismatic charm, and never-ending wit, he helped make Philadelphia the welcoming city and destination that it proudly is today.”
Walter “Walt” J. Leger III has begun his tenure as president-elect and CEO of New Orleans & Company, the city’s DMO. J. Stephen Perry, president and the organization since 2002, announced last month his retirement from public and private service at the end of 2022. The New Orleans & Company’s board of directors had approved a succession plan that appoints Leger as president-elect. He will become Perry’s successor on Jan. 1, 2023. Leger is an attorney, former state legislator, as well as New Orleans & Company’s executive vice president/general counsel.
Shortly before he was scheduled to be sworn in as New York City’s mayor at the Times Square ball drop, Mayor Eric Adams named the heads of several city agencies, including tourism, announcing that he was keeping incumbent Fred Dixon on the job. Dixon, who joined New York City & Company in 2005 as executive vice president, market development was named as president & CEO in March 2014 by then-Mayor Bill de Blazio. Before joining NYC & Co., Dixon held senior sales positions with Group Sales Box Office, Planet Hollywood and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Joel Brennan is leaving his post as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, to serve as president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. The group has almost 200 of the top CEOs and leaders of business, industry, law firms and financial and educational institutions in the Milwaukee metro that are dedicated to improving the life and economy of southeastern Wisconsin. Brennan’s last day as secretary of the Department of Administration is Monday, Jan. 17. He was appointed to the position in December 2018. Brennan has a strong background in travel and tourism. His CV includes a tenure as vice president of the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau and more than 11 years as CEO of Discovery World, a popular Milwaukee science and technology attraction.
Kimber Foster has taken over as director of Palm Springs Tourism. In her new role, will lead the development and implementation of the City of Palm Springs strategic marketing plan and work together with the Visit Greater Palm Springs marketing and destination teams and stakeholders to promote visitation. Foster brings 20 years of non-profit, agency and destination marketing/communications experience to the position. She joins from Grapevine, Texas, where she served as director of marketing and communications for the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau for the past five years. Prior to that, Foster worked Destination El Paso as marketing & communications manager.
Jeff LeMaster has been named as chief of communications for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. A former editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he took over communications, marketing, public relations and media relations at the department starting Jan. 3. Most recently, the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment’s director of enterprise services who joined the state government in 2018, LeMaster spent five years as communications director for the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain. The nonprofit educational center and conference venue celebrates the legacy of former Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller is affiliated with the University of Arkansas. LeMaster worked for the Democrat-Gazette from 2005 to 2011 and previously wrote for the Jacksonville Patriot.
Kristi Olsen-Hayes, formerly York County’s tourism development manager, has been named new deputy director for York County, Virginia’s combined Economic Development and Tourism Development departments as the York County government’s Economic Development Authority and Tourism Development department merge into one department in the upcoming months. Olsen-Hayes has been working in tourism for York County since 2002 and, before that, held positions at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg.
Due to the growth that American Airlines has had in Latin America and the Caribbean with seven new flights and more than 40 new routes, in addition to strategic alliances in South America, the airline has appointed José María Giraldo managing director for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Giraldo joined American more than 30 years ago working in different areas of the company in the flight service, sales, cargo and operations departments. American Airlines operates approximately 2,200 weekly flights to nearly 90 destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean, and maintains flights from its hub at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to 26 destinations in Mexico.
GigNet has announced the appointment of Fabian Cortes as vice president of carrier and commercial sales for GigNet Mexico. Cortes has over two decades experience in building client relationships in Mexico and Latin America. He has senior executive experience leading customer relationships with carriers and major corporate customers at a global level, and has been involved in creating solutions from project planning to implementation and sale. In his role, Cortes will lead a sales team dedicated to expanding GigNet’s product offerings serving major customers such as mobile network operators, large-scale enterprises, international carriers, social media and streaming content providers, and more. Previously, Cortes was previously senior sales manager for Phoenix Tower International in Mexico City, where he was responsible for new business development with national and international telecom companies,
UK boating holidays provider Le Boat has name Julia Thornhill as head of partnerships and business development. She will be working across Le Boat’s global business, specifically focusing on supporting agents and the company’s tour operator partners. Le Boat operates mostly in Europe, but does sell some product in Canada. Thornhill was previously a national account manager for four years at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and has also worked at TUI, Irish Ferries, Cresta Holidays and Jetsave.
Explore has announced the appointment of Jae Hopkins, who started in her new job at the beginning of the new year. Hopkins joins Explore—it is part of the Hotelplan group and is a leading adventure travel specialist— following a long career in marketing, including marketing director roles at Exodus Travels and Eurotunnel.
José Bach has joined Qtech Software as global sales manager. He will be leading the strategic sales initiatives for Qtech from UAE. His primary responsibilities include market development for travel ERP platform – OTRAMS and booking re-verification platform – rePUSHTI. He will be working closely with the Product Development and Marketing teams to drive the company’s vision of making technology easily accessible to travel companies globally. Bach joins Qtech with an experience of over nine years in the travel and hospitality industry, especially in strategic sales, partnerships, and global business development. Prior to Qtech, he has worked with Hotelbeds in acquisitions and strategic partnerships for Middle East, Africa and South Asia. He has also worked with Tourico Holidays.
Former U.S. Marine Chenelle McGee has left her position as president and CEO of ShelbyKY Tourism to start in a new role as director of international and group sales for the Kentucky Department of Tourism. McGee had been with ShelbyKY Tourism for five-and-a-half years. She began at the organization as a marketing director and was later named president and CEO in early 2021 after her predecessor, Katie Fussenegger, left ShelbyKY Tourism to serve as vice president of the Kentucky Derby Museum. McGee has also served for four years in the U.S Marines.
Chris Finazzo has joined SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. as chief commercial officer. He will be responsible for all commercial aspects of the business including revenue and marketing. SeaWorld’s board of directors unanimously approved the appointment. Prior to SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., Chris served in a variety of roles with Burger King from 2014 – 2021, most recently as president (2017-2021) where he oversaw marketing, operations, franchising, field operations, finance, and development for nearly 10,000 restaurants across the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.
From SearchWide Global:
—Visit Seattle is searching for a new president and CEO. More details here.
—The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau is seeking a new chief financial officer. More details here.
—Destinations International is looking for a manager of meetings and events. More details here.
—Visit El Paso is searching for a director of marketing and communications. More details here.
—The Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau has an opening for the position of vice president. More details here.
—An international hotel corporation with a diverse and distinctive portfolio is seeking a dual director of sales & marketing to develop and implement the total sales and marketing strategy for two or more hotels located in the same market—Silicon Valley, California. More details here.
—A world-wide hospitality group is looking for an executive director of hotel sales & marketing a position that would be based in San Francisco, Toronto or remotely. More details here:
—Visit Greater Palm Springs has an opening for a vice president of sales. More details here.
—Experience Grand Rapids is searching for a vice president of engagement and inclusion. More details here.
—Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County is looking for a director of marketing & communications. More details here.
—Visit Denver is seeking to hire a new vice president of tourism. More details here.
—Visit Santa Cruz is searching for a new CEO/Executive Vice President. More details here.
—The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau has an opening for a director of marketing. More details here.
—There is an opening for the position of president & CEO at Visit Fort Wayne. More details here.
—The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association is looking for a CEO. More details here.
—Destinations International is searching for a vice president of equity, diversity & inclusion. More details here.
—The City of Tacoma has an opening for a director of venue & events. More details here.
—Visit Dana Point is looking for an executive director. More details here.
—Discover The Palm Beaches is searching for a director of events, tradeshow & strategic sales partnerships. More details here.
—Freeman is searching for a vice president, national graphics. More details here.
—In the Charlotte/Concord area of North Carolina, Great Wolf Resorts has an opening for a director of sales and catering. For details, click here
From LinkedIn Jobs: Known to many across the board in the travel and tourism industry, the LinkedIn list (click here) has numerous job opportunities posted. Following is a brief sample of some of those jobs currently listed.
—Delta Vacations (Delta Air Lines brand) is seeking a program manager, More details here.
—At SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment near Philadelphia, there is an opening for a public relations specialist. More details here.
—Travel Oregon is looking for a destination development program manager. Salary $75,400 to $86,707 a year. More details here.
—Amazon Web Services is searching for a head of travel & hospitality industry marketing. Located in Seattle. More details here.
From Indeed.com: We’ve taken a look at this site (click here) which says that it has hundreds of new jobs listed, including a fair number in the travel, tourism and related industries. A sampler of what to expect is below.
—The City of Virginia Beach has an opening for a convention and tourism representative. More details here.
—The City of Winder, Georgia is looking for an events and tourism manager. More details here.
—Las Vegas Outdoor Adventures is looking for an outdoor tour guide; salary is $100,000-$120,000. More details here.
—There is an opening for a sports tourism assistant at the City of Myrtle Beach. More details here.
—The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is looking for a vice president of guest experience. The salary range is $130,000 – $157,000 a year: More details here.
Have a job to offer in the travel and tourism industry? Let us know and we’ll post your notice—no cost to you. Email [email protected]