Jim Wood resigns Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Jim Wood resigns as CEO of Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - Jim Wood resigned Tuesday as President & CEO of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau after nearly 11 years in the post.

The announcement from the C&VB did not say whether Wood has a new job lined up, but board chairman Michael Howerton said it was Wood's decision to leave and that he has been "very successful" in the job.

C&VB spokeswoman Stacey Yates said the departure is to pursue "other employment opportunities" and not a retirement. She said he is about 55.

Wood did not return a call on his cell phone.

The bureau named Karen Williams, who retired as its executive vice president in 2012, interim CEO beginning Wednesday. Howerton, who manages the downtown Marriott, said there is no timeframe for naming a new CEO.

"We hope to name the person as soon as we find the right person," he said. "The city is growing and evolving; the industry is strong; our opportunities are getting greater."

According to the release from the C&VB:

Wood was a leader in Louisville's tourism efforts as an economic development organization focused on attracting meetings, conventions and leisure travel to the Greater Louisville area. He represented the city at industry tradeshows and conferences and oversaw the Bureau in all aspects of its fiscal and daily operation.

Wood has worked in the hospitality industry for 44 years. Wood led the successful efforts to bring to Louisville many significant industry tradeshows including the recent hosting of the record-setting FFA which has had an economic impact of more than $40 million annually.

Other projects completed under Wood's leadership have included the opening of the Visitors Center in 2007, the launch of the regional tourism partnership of Bourbon Country which is one of the few multi-city cooperative marketing campaigns, and the awarding of the American Bus Association annual conference in 2016.

Wood played a key role in signing long term contracts with multiple conventions including the upcoming SkillsUSA Convention which will be held from 2015-2020. During Wood's tenure, Louisville hosted numerous industry shows such as the Religious Convention Management Association, National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, Teams, CESSE, Rejuvenate Marketplace, National Association of Sports Commissions.

Wood helped bring the Abbey Road on the River Beatles Festival which has met on the Belvedere for the past 9 years. Most recently Wood helped implement the Louisville Jack O' Lantern Spectacular to Louisville in partnership with Louisville Metro Parks and Louisville Metro Parks Foundation. Under Wood's leadership the Bureau has helped promote many signature festivals and events, including ones that Wood recruited such as the nine-year Abbey Road on the River and the recent success of Jack O' Lantern Spectacular.

Wood came to the Bureau after serving as the President & CEO of the Greater Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. He was also the vice president of convention sales and marketing at the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, where he was responsible for coordinating the city's Super Bowl and NCAA Men's Final Four bids, The NHL All-Star Game, and the relocation of The International Softball Federation.

Board Chair Michael Howerton says, "Jim Wood has brought Louisville unparalleled success when it comes to attracting conventions. We are certainly going to miss Jim's enthusiasm. His innovative ideas will be pay dividends in this community for year's to come."

"The convention and tourism industry is a key driver of Louisville's economy and our national and international image. Under Jim Wood's leadership, both have grown significantly," Mayor Greg Fischer said. "Our city thanks him for his many years of service."

The search for a replacement begins immediately.

The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau has appointed veteran hospitality industry executive Karen Williams as the interim head of the city's tourism agency.

For the next 90 days, Williams will represent the Louisville Bureau at industry tradeshows and conferences and provide strategic leadership and oversight of the Bureau in all aspects of its fiscal and daily operation.

Williams has worked in the hospitality industry for 32 years beginning as a sales manager at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Atlanta.  After opening 18 hotels worldwide, Williams returned to Louisville and served 23 years at the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, retiring as Executive Vice President in 2012.

She has served on boards of Leadership Louisville, Meeting Professionals International, Destination Marketing Association International and APEX Commissioner with the Convention Industry Council. Williams has also served as chair for the Destination & Travel Foundation.
In recognition of her career achievements, Williams received the Dan Mangeot Award in 2012, which is bestowed to an individual who has greatly contributed to Louisville's tourism initiatives.

Most recently, Williams has been working with leading hospitality industry clients as a consultant with her destination marketing company, Inspired, and also serving as Director of Industry Relations for Schneider Publishing, a best-of-class organization among the meetings-industry media.

Says Board Chair Michael Howerton, "We are thrilled that Karen can step in quickly to ensure we do not miss a beat on maximizing tourism growth and economic development."

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