SearchWide Finds New Leader for the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

SearchWide Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

June 18, 2018 – After suffering a massive hit during the Great Recession, employment and hiring within the travel, hotel and hospitality industry continues to rebound. Last year, according to one set of survey metrics, the industry added 527,000 jobs (2.6 million since 2004). That number is likely to increase this year as global tourism and traveling in general are expected to rise.

Overall, the travel and hospitality market is estimated to generate an economic impact of $6.5 trillion worldwide this year. In the U.S. alone, the $1.5 trillion industry accounts for nearly eight million jobs – more than five percent of the total jobs nationwide. This has created a massive uptick of hiring within the travel sector.

Executive recruiting firm SearchWide recently placed Bennish Brown as the new president and CEO of the Augusta (GA) Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). Barry White stepped down in February after leading the organization for 23 years. SearchWide vice president Kellie Henderson headed the search.

Mr. Brown’s “proven track record in recruiting visitors for both convention and leisure travel to stimulate economic impact through visitor spending was unmatched,” said Phil Wahl, chairman of the ACVB board. “We’re confident that Bennish will pursue and achieve the vision and objectives of the organization while continuing to cultivate the growth and innovation we’re already seeing throughout Augusta’s river region.”

Mr. Brown, who joins the organization on July 9, is president and CEO of Travel Tacoma + Pierce County. He previously spent 12 years as executive director of the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau in South Carolina. Mr. Brown serves as on the board of directors at Destinations International, the Washington Tourism Alliance and is immediate past chair of the Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations Association.


Pyramind Lands New Leader for the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau
Falls Church, VA-based search firm Pyramind recruited Jeffrey Vasser as the executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau. He succeeds Betsey Howell, who retired last year after leading the organization for 35 years.


In his new role, Mr. Brown will serve as the chief staff executive of the ACVB under the general supervision of the board of directors. He is charged with directing and controlling all administrative and operational activities and programs for the organization, said SearchWide.  

“I hope to continue to foster partnerships with community stakeholders, including the city, chamber of commerce and economic development authority, as well as hoteliers, attractions, restaurants and cultural organizations, to not only develop Augusta as a world-class destination, but champion an improved quality of life for its residents,” said Mr. Brown.

Experienced Recruiters

SearchWide is a full-service executive search firm focused on the travel, tourism & convention, hotel & lodging industries and sports & entertainment sectors. It specializes in C-level, director and management level searches for Fortune 500 corporations to mid-sized public and private companies.

Ms. Henderson, of the Woodbury, MN-based search firm, works in all sectors of the hospitality, travel and tourism industry. She is the leader of SearchWide’s industrywide diversity initiative, in addition to her involvement in several industry organizations.


PFM Executive Search Recruits CMO for Tourism Victoria
PFM Executive Search placed Paul Hawes as chief marketing officer of destination marketing organization Tourism Victoria. Mr. Hawes has more than 22 years of progressive tourism marketing and sales experience.


The firm recently filled chief executive officer positions for Visit Aurora, Visit Baltimore, the Greater Newark Convention Center & Visitors Bureau, Visit West Hollywood, Kentucky State Fair Board, and the Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau. SearchWide is currently engaged in searches for top leaders at the Mobile Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Empire State Building Company, among others.

Recently, SearchWide unveiled a new recruiting service specifically for customers looking to fill management roles quickly. The new service, SearchWide Connect, will bring speed of placement to the market, without sacrificing the quality of candidates, said the search firm. “This division of SearchWide is led by a team of young and smart industry professionals who exhibit the ability to quickly find tomorrow’s industry leaders,” said Mike Gamble, president and CEO of the firm. “With unemployment at an all-time low and the war on talent at an all-time high, speed to market is critically important to many of our clients, especially in the hotel and resort sector.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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