S.F. gets new tourism leader

The interviewing process for the new president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau took all of three weeks. The winning candidate, Joe D’Allesandro, was simply going about his business three weeks ago when he got a call from a headhunter asking him to interview for the position.

“I love my job and I had no intention of moving, but the opportunity came up and it seemed like a great opportunity for me,” said D’Allesandro in a phone interview from Portland, where he is currently the president and CEO of the Portland Oregon Visitors Association. “San Francisco is the only city that I would consider moving away from Portland so I thought, ‘This is something that makes sense.’”

D’Allesandro, 50, seems excited and optimistic about the new job but has no illusions that it will be all roses. He is well aware the tourism industry in San Francisco is a tricky beast.

“San Francisco is a very well-known and loved destination, but the budget we have to work with is somewhat limited compared to that of our competition so it will force us to be creative and find partners in the business community and in the hospitality community and in government,” he said. “We have to be creative and can’t rely on the traditional ways of doing things like we always have. We’ll have to continually evolve to make San Francisco the most desirable destination possible.”

D’Allesandro also acknowledges that competition for tourists is no longer regional but international and says that this will make aggressive marketing all the more imperative.

D’Allesandro has been the president and CEO of the Portland association for 10 years. Before that, he was the international program manager for the California Office of Tourism, which he said was a position that forced him to focus quite a bit on San Francisco.

In Portland, D’Allesandro supervises 50 employees. In San Francisco, he will supervise 70. In Portland, tourism vacillates between the No. 1 and No. 2 industry in the city. In San Francisco, it is solidly No. 1.

“San Francisco is a much bigger market, but the cities are very similar in a lot of ways,” said D’Allesandro. “They have similar personalities and they’re both very progressive cities.”

D’Allesandro starts the new job on July 5. He is replacing John A. Marks, who is retiring from the San Francisco bureau after 19 years. D’Allesandro will be relocating to San Francisco with his partner, who he says will be able to telecommute from their San Francisco home, and his 15-year-old son.

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