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Visit Salt Lake names new CEO

Photo of Kaitlin Eskelson, newly appointed president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake.
Kaitlin Eskelson, newly appointed president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake.
Visit Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY — Visit Salt Lake on Monday announced the appointment of Kaitlin Eskelson as its new president and CEO.

She succeeds Scott Beck, who left in September after leading the organization for 14 years to become president and CEO of Tourism Toronto. Eskelson will officially assume her new role on March 16, leading efforts to improve and increase Salt Lake’s visitor economy by attracting and providing support to meetings, conventions, events and leisure travelers, a news release states, while also promoting environmental responsibility.

“Salt Lake is an incredible destination. It’s an incomparable combination of urban ethos and mountain mantra paired with world-class community, culture and cuisine,” said Eskelson. “I look forward to sharing the Salt Lake story with the world.”

Over the past 17 years, Eskelson’s career in the visitor industry has included time at the Park City Chamber & Visitors Bureau, followed by a seven-year stint with Visit Salt Lake from 2006-13 as director of tourism sales and marketing. She then joined the state Tourism Office as director of partner relations and international strategy from 2013-17. Most recently, she was executive director of the Utah Tourism Industry Association.

A native of Wisconsin, Eskelson, 38, received a bachelor of business administration from the University of Minnesota and a master of public administration from the University of Utah.

She said there are of three pillars that she wants to focused on initially, beginning with destination stewardship.

“A lot of this has to do with reaching outside of Visit Salt Lake and bringing in the entire county to make sure that we are all together working on the really hard, sustainable issues,” she said. “The second one is community alignment. A huge opportunity for Salt Lake County is that we holistically as a county develop a mantra and a narrative and that we’re all speaking from the same playbook.”

She added that the third pillar is the idea of precision marketing.

“Everything that we do coming out of this office should be trackable (and) should have return on investment (data),” Eskelson said. “We should be able to identify and pivot on a dime when something is working or is not working, and really revamping that strategy so that we’re making the best use of the market dollars that we have (and) we’re able to (report) back to our stakeholders.”

She also mentioned a long-term goal of Salt Lake eventually growing from a midsize convention and visitor market to a top level locale.

“One of the goals, I believe, is to get our destination to a tier one market,” she said. “What that means is that we are playing alongside the big boys.”

As examples, she noted that Las Vegas would be considered a tier one, as well as Toronto, New York, Chicago or Orlando — “because they can service any convention need that comes.” She said Salt Lake City already reaches about half the benchmarks necessary to become tier one, such as big brand lodging and hundreds of dining and cultural options.

The addition of the future Hyatt Regency Salt Lake headquarters hotel will be a significant step toward reaching the next level of convention destinations, she said.

“I think we’ll likely get to a tier one market before we see the Olympics come to town in 2030 — knock on wood — if we get it,” Eskelson said.

“This is a community- and countywide strategy so that we can get the appropriate legislative (actions) — whether it’s appropriations or laws — in place to make sure that we can build out roads and transit and transportation up and down the canyons,” she explained. “It’s really this holistic look that’s going to stem from (collaboration between) elected officials, legislators, municipalities, county level — it’s going to take everyone.”

Beck called Eskelson “a rock star” who will provide great leadership at the organization for years to come.

“She has a great pedigree in our industry. Her time lobbying on behalf of our industry has given her an incredible vision to what the scope and scale is in our industry,” he said. “Just from the way she looks at the world — the perspective she has, from being not from the state but living in the state, traveling and being with the Utah Office of Tourism, it’s such a well rounded resume and her energy is the perfect thing for Visit Salt Lake.”

He added that the trajectory of Eskelson’s opportunities to grow at Visit Salt Lake are only rivaled by that of the trajectory of the Salt Lake City area.

“It is really fun what I’m doing now in Toronto to look back at how Salt Lake has grown in its trajectory and know where it’s going to be,” Beck said. “Things like the (convention center) hotel, things like new leadership with new perspectives like Kaitlin’s just bodes well for the entire community.”