SearchWide Global Recruits CEO for Visit Bend

May 24, 2024 – Executive recruitment firm SearchWide Global has recruited Jeff Knapp as the new president and CEO of Visit Bend. Nicole Newman, the search firm’s vice president, led the assignment. He replaces Kevney Dugan, who is now with Travel Oregon. “We were looking for a genuine, passionate, approachable and experienced leader and I know that we found that in Jeff,” said Todd Montgomery, board chair with Visit Bend. “We feel that Jeff will respect the hard work and thoughtfulness that has gone into the strategic planning around Visit Bend’s creative, and thoughtful initiatives to promote the area with a focus on community, sustainability, and respect for Bend’s natural resources and way of life. Jeff is the kind of leader who can take us to the next level in our industry.”

“Bend is clearly a desirable place to live and work, and we did not have a shortage of candidates from which to choose,” Mr. Montgomery said. “Our process has been thorough and successful and we are really pleased with the results and excited about Jeff starting soon. His track record of success and the many ways he’s been recognized in his field in addition to his familiarity with our program make him such a great fit.”

Mr. Knapp most recently served as president and CEO and President of Visit McMinnville. Known for his emphasis on the promotion and development of McMinnville as a sustainable and profitable destination since starting the organization in 2015, Mr. Knapp actively serves on the Oregon Destination Association, served on the governing boards of the Yamhill County Tourism Partnership and Willamette Valley Visitors Association and is a founding board member of both TEDx McMinnville and Cycle Yamhill County. Before his time in McMinnville, he spent eight years leading Direct to Consumer Sales at Sokol Blosser Winery, programming and developing next level hospitality and sales through relationships.

In 2022, Mr. Knapp was awarded the McMinnville Mayor’s Community Pillar Award. Also in 2022, at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Travel Oregon lauded Mr. Knapp with the Oregon Leadership Award, which “honors individuals championing the value of tourism, whose vision and commitment help make our communities, tourism regions and state stronger visitor destinations, and whose leadership behind the scenes contributes significantly to the recognition and impact of Oregon’s travel and tourism industry.”

“Knapp is the true embodiment of starting with ‘why,’ he stays authentic to himself and the regions he represents, and he consistently and constantly is a cheerleader at all levels for the power of the visitor economy in rural communities,” Travel Oregon said.

Related: SearchWide Global Recruits Chief Diversity Officer for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority

“My time in the tourism industry–and really in any business–has taught me that building trusting relationships and then examining how to best use tax dollars derived from tourism to improve the community will be the first orders of business,” said Mr. Knapp. “I’ve watched and worked with Visit Bend for years, so I am familiar with the assets and challenges that come with this position, and am very much looking forward to the opportunity to continue to examine the balance of economic, social and environmental sustainability for a healthy Bend now and in the future.”

As a primary caretaker of Bend, OR’s brand, Visit Bend is dedicated to enhancing the city’s economy by attracting visitors and encouraging them to connect with it’s rich culture and diverse local businesses. Visit Bend’s strategic, creative, and thoughtful initiatives promote the area with a focus on community, sustainability, and respect for Bend’s natural resources and way of life.

Experienced Recruiters

SearchWide Global, based in St. Paul, MN, is a full-service executive recruitment firm primarily for companies in the travel, tourism, hospitality, convention, trade association, venue management, and experiential marketing industries. The firm specializes in C-level and director-level executive searches for companies ranging in size from Fortune 500 corporations to mid-sized public and private companies and associations.

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 Global is currently engaged in searches for top leaders at Discover the Palm Beaches and Visit Santa Cruz County, among others.

Ms. Newman works in all sectors of the hospitality and travel industry. Her experience in group sales, catering, and event planning, according to clients, gives her a unique perspective on executive level recruitment.

Related: SearchWide Global Assists Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and Visit Big Sky in CEO Search 

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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