This week, Visit Seattle announced that Tammy Blount-Canavan, FCDME, will be the organization’s first female president and CEO, replacing longtime leader Tom Norwalk, who retired earlier this spring. “This is like a big dream come true,” said Blount-Canavan, explaining why Seattle is the only destination she would have considered coming back to lead.

Blount-Canavan is returning to a DMO role after time as executive vice president and principal at Fired-Up! Culture, a business management consulting firm focused on leadership and culture development. She started in the hotel industry in her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, was president and CEO of Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau and served in the same role at Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.

She is a past-chair of Destinations International, the international trade association for destination marketing organizations. She was a Smart Meetings Supplier of the Year, was recognized as CEO of the Year while in Monterey, was one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry, and was one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women in the industry twice.

She was recognized as Community Leader of the Year, Sustainability Advocate for the California Travel Association, Leading for Positive Impact by the Canadian Impact Conference, and was the 2019 recipient of Destination International’s Global Leadership Award. During her time at Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, she was the first chair for the Washington Tourism Alliance, now State of Washington Tourism.

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Building on a Legacy

As Blount-Canavan considers her priorities after officially taking the role May 9, collaboration is at the top of the list. “Tom left a great legacy,” she said. “As we crawl out of Covid, the number one priority is to work with everyone in the community, industry, elected officials and others to collectively bring back meetings and events.”

Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Addition (also called Summit) is in its final months of construction and in January 2023 will double the amount of available space.

During Norwalk’s leadership, Seattle set all-time records for tourism visitation and spending and oversaw an effort to increase the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area assessment, which will allow Visit Seattle to competitively promote leisure travel.

Blount-Canavan acknowledged that a new venue is only the shiny new thing for so long and the destination will need to capitalize on the interest to build the pipeline while rebuilding the team. “We have an opportunity to control our narrative about how the country looks at the city,” she said.

Blount-Canavan plans to leverage her political experience in a destination that answered to nine different stakeholders, her connections in the industry sharing what is working in other places and her collaborative leadership skills from Fired-Up! Culture to bring everyone together with a unified voice.

“I am thrilled to welcome Tammy Blount-Canavan to Seattle,” said Carla Murray, president of Marriott International’s U.S. western region. “She has made her mark in Vancouver, Tacoma and Monterey, and I look forward to working with her again in her new role as leader of Visit Seattle. Her skills and expertise will assist us in growing our business well into the future.”