CHICAGO - The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB) Board of Directors today named Donald P. Welsh as President and CEO. Welsh, 54, previously served as the CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association.
"Our state leaders made sweeping reforms setting the stage for a new way of doing business in Chicago and Illinois. The Bureau was tasked with taking the tools they gave us to move the needle," said CCTB Chairman Bruce V. Rauner. "First, we put a new board of business and civic leaders in place. A city known for making no small plans, we then set out to find the best CEO to lead us into the future. I'm pleased to say-we've found the right person. Don is exactly what we need to take the Bureau to a whole new level and sharpen Chicago's competitive edge."
As CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, Welsh was instrumental in raising the profile of the destination, filling the city with new business and securing private funding for the Association. During his tenure he helped open more than $3 billion in new tourism-related developments-including a new airport, new stadium, doubling the size of the Indiana Convention Center, and opening the world's largest JW Marriott.
Prior, Welsh served as CEO of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau for five years where he oversaw an $11 million budget and more than 50 employees, including a sales office in Chicago. While at the helm, downtown Seattle touted a hotel occupancy rate of 75 percent. Welsh successfully rebranded the Seattle bureau and also implemented a Tourism Matters campaign to raise awareness about the significant impact of tourism.
"When you consider the sheer impact of the industry and the demands of the person responsible for maintaining and growing it, the choice was right. Don has been remarkably successful and brings a highly valued skill set of Bureau experience coupled with branding and marketing acumen. He shares in our bold vision of taking our industry to new heights and we know he has the energy and ability to do it. This is a city of champions, and we got one," Rauner added.
Welsh will transition in January and officially assume his role with the CCTB in early February. "Chicago is in a league of its own. There is not a larger stage than this world-class city and it's an incredible honor to be tasked with marketing Chicago to visitors from every corner of the globe." said Welsh. "Working alongside Bruce, the board and our Bureau team, we are ready to hit the ground running and drive more economic growth for Chicago and Illinois and more value for our customers."
The Chicago visitor industry is directly responsible for 125,000 jobs resulting in $587 million in tax revenue that supports education, healthcare, public safety and other public services and $10.2 billion in direct spending by visitors on food, entertainment, transportation and shopping.
"We are pleased to welcome Don to Chicago," said Jim Reilly, MPEA Trustee. "Don is the right person to join our team and help us further leverage the legislative reforms and continue the positive momentum for what promises to be a successful future for our collective industry. We look forward to his leadership and energy."
Since the reforms have been put into place, Chicago has attracted several new groups and retained critical shows representing more than $2 billion in estimated direct expenditures for the city and state for future years.