Rachel Brown, the marketing and communications director for Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefits District, will be the new executive director for the Durango Area Tourism Office.
Brown, who will start Nov. 18, with a first-year salary of $102,000, was one of five candidates interviewed for the job three weeks ago by some 40 representatives of the tourism industry, the city of Durango and community representatives.
Bruce Moss, owner of Gateway Reservations and chairman of the DATO board, said her strong record and experience in destination marketing led Brown to emerge as the favorite in a process where 40 people in four different panels – representing the community, the tourism industry, marketing, and representatives from regional destination marketing organizations – interviewed all the candidates.
“This was a very thorough process, finding the right candidate to fill the needs of the DATO organization and community,” Moss said.
Brown, who grew up in San Diego, said her family had a cabin in Big Bear, California, where she fell in love with the mountains, rivers, lakes and forests.
“I’m a sucker for scenery, especially mountains,” she said. “I had previously visited Durango and loved it, and during the interview process, I fell in love with it all over again.”
In a news release, she added, “The residents, stakeholders, board members, and Visit Durango staff I met were warm, dynamic, and I already feel right at home. It is the people that really sold me on Durango. This is an exciting time for Durango area tourism and I see so much potential for marketing this up-and-coming city and county. I am thrilled by this opportunity.”
Ultimately, destination marketing organizations are primarily concerned with driving up visits to their communities, “prioritizing heads in beds,” Brown said. But in the end, she added, building a vibrant tourism economy should improve quality of life for everyone by strengthening the shopping, restaurant and cultural scene.
A vibrant tourism sector, she said, “should lead to a broader economic impact and translate to new businesses opening in town.”
Expanding visitor numbers during shoulder seasons between the busy summer vacation and winter skiing seasons will be a priority, she said.
DATO Interim Executive Director Barbara Bowman said she will work with Brown for about two weeks and then will serve as a consultant when needed by DATO.
Bowman noted 2018 is on pace to be a strong tourism year with lodgers tax collections through Aug. 31 at $ 669,562, up 6.9% year to date.
“Rachel is so lucky to be able to work with the fantastic DATO team. It is the staff’s strategic marketing efforts, in addition to a strong industry and community team, that has resulted in Durango having such a good year.
Currently, the organization is in the midst of developing its 2020 marketing plan and finalizing its 2020 budget with the city of Durango.
Moss said, “We’d like to recognize interim executive director, Barb Bowman, and the DATO staff for their hard work and dedication over the past 10 months. Barb’s industry expertise guided us through this transition, and our entire tourism community pulled together for a strong comeback after the 416 Fire.”
Bowman was hired to fill in as executive director after the previous executive director, Frank Lockwood, was fired after criticizing the Durango City Council’s use of city lodgers tax dollars to fund Durango Transit, the bus service in the city.
Lockwood contended the City Council had not voted to divert lodgers tax money away from tourism marketing to fund operational costs city buses, trolleys and vans.