Sonoma County picks Nevada tourism honcho as CEO

Claudia Vecchio will assume the role of Sonoma County Tourism CEO Nov. 1, 2017. (Sonoma County Tourism)

CYNTHIA SWEENEY,

Claudia Vecchio, head of Nevada’s tourism initiative, will take over as Sonoma County Tourism’ new CEO on Nov. 1.

She replaces Ken Fischang, who stepped down in May. Interim Sonoma County Tourism CEO Tim Zahner told the Las Vegas Review Journal that, after the fires, Vecchio will have plenty on her plate when she arrives.

“Claudia is stepping into a situation where the community of Sonoma County and the board and staff of Sonoma County Tourism have come together to not only support one another in our time of need, but also to rally around and get the word out that we are open for business and ready to welcome visitors to the Northern California they love,” Zahner said.

Vecchio leaves her position as the first director of the state Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, which consists of the Commission on Tourism, Division of Museums and History, Nevada Arts Council and the Nevada Indian Commission.

“In addition to its extraordinary natural beauty, Sonoma County exudes an incredible spirit of independent thinking, creativity and fortitude that truly sets it apart from any other destination,” Vecchio said in a statement. “The truest sense of this spirit has been on full display during the recent fires. It’s a privilege to join a team and represent a countywide tourism industry that can come together through challenging times to not only support one another, but also to rally around and get the word out that we are open for business and ready to welcome visitors to Northern California.”

Vecchio said it should be a fairly easy transition on the marketing side, as Sonoma County has a few things in common with Nevada, like its independent, creative, maverick spirit.

“It’s wineries versus casinos,” she said. “They are important drivers, but I see so much more to talk about.”

Vecchio long has been a fan of and visitor to Sonoma County, having family in Bodega Bay. Upon moving to Sonoma County, she had planned to rent, but after the destructive fires and the even tighter rental market, she is in the process of buying a home.

Vecchio is a former president of Destination Integration in Dallas and head of Ohio’s tourism office. She began working in Nevada in November 2011.

She also has managed national brand launch campaigns for Taco Bell, Frito-Lay and Norwegian Cruise Lines and was on the promotion team that launched the Fox Broadcasting Network’s television programming. She also was a tour manager for the international education and entertainment organization, Up With People.

Zahner has been named chief operating officer and will continue to oversee marketing and communications efforts for Sonoma County Tourism.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.