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Linsey Gallagher of Visit Napa Valley wins North Bay Women in Business award

Linsey Gallagher

President & CEO

Visit Napa Valley

1001 Second St., Suite 330, Napa 94559

707-226-5813

Linsey Gallagher says her tourism marketing organization is ready to face the “new normal” with the coronavirus pandemic. She is a 2020 North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Awards winner.

Professional background: Prior to becoming president and CEO of Visit Napa Valley, Gallagher held a senior leadership position at the California Wine Institute. Gallagher previously served as vice president, International Marketing for the California Wine Institute managing California’s wine export program and market expansion strategies and tactics in key emerging markets such as China, as well as developed markets including Canada, the UK, and Mexico.

She has also worked in real estate development on the east coast and began her wine industry career with E. & J. Gallo Winery where she was responsible for marketing strategy and brand execution for various brands. Prior to these experiences, Gallagher was manager of Finance for the NBC Today Show and a financial analyst for General Electric Capital Services.

Education: Undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont; MBA degree from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

Staff: (Pre-Covid 19) A core team of 25 staff and more than 75 volunteers who normally staff the Napa Valley Welcome Center

Tell us about yourself and your company: I am president and CEO of Visit Napa Valley, the official destination management organization for Napa County.

Our vision is to elevate Napa Valley as the world’s premiere wine country experience, and our mission is to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley destination.

Our focus is on driving overnight stays from November through April, which we call the Cabernet Season, and throughout the year during slower mid-week periods.

Primary funding for our activities and programs comes from a Tourism Improvement District (TID) special assessment on lodging. Those funds are generated by our visitors. Visitors to Napa Valley spend over $2.2 billion annually supporting nearly 16,000 jobs for the community. This benefits everyone from small businesses to our local governments who collect more than $85 million in sales tax, transient occupancy tax and property taxes generated from tourism in a typical year.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

Four months ago, I would have said our strategic plan, but right now, there is no greater accomplishment than helping our tourism industry and local government partners weather the challenge of a global pandemic. Getting word that Napa Valley hotels and wineries could begin safely welcoming visitors back on June 5 has been our greatest accomplishment.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

Our contributions to our local community through creative partnerships are something I’m extremely proud of.

Most recently, we partnered with Napa Valley Vintners to develop a reopening plan that celebrates the Napa Valley Spirit by inviting valley residents to explore their backyards (“Sip, Dine, Shop and Stay in Your Backyard”).

Several months ago, we also partnered with the Napa Valley Vintners as one of the major partners in Napa Valley Forward, a two-year public-private partnership led by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). The program encourages Napa Valley’s tourism and wine industry employers and employees to adopt sustainable transportation solutions such as carpooling to reduce traffic on Highway 29 and Silverado Trail.

And another example is our advocacy for a 1 percent hotel tax increase that went into effect in the county and the cities of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga last fiscal year to fund affordable and workforce housing solutions in our communities.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Our industry has faced many challenges in recent years from public safety power shutdowns, fires, a major earthquake and 9/11.

None has come close to the challenge posed by COVID-19. Napa Valley is committed to the highest safety standards by going above and beyond mandated requirements in order to protect the health and welfare of employees, guests, and our community while providing world-class hospitality. I’m confident that our Napa Valley spirit will prevail.

Words that best describe you: Positive, encouraging, collaborative, strong, hardworking, dedicated, kind and encouraging.

In what ways have the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders changed who you are as a person that will be a part of you long after the pandemic has passed?

The pandemic has tested me as a leader. I have always been a collaborative leader, but I experienced the importance of relationships and relying on one another in ways I could never have imagined.

Linsey Gallagher

President & CEO

Visit Napa Valley

1001 Second St., Suite 330, Napa 94559

707-226-5813

I so value my family, my Visit Napa Valley team, our board, our industry partners, the region’s elected officials and so many other community leaders from our chambers and other local, regional, state and national tourism leaders.

Also, what ways do you think it will change the way you go about your career and your business?

I hope to remain positive and an optimist, but I may come away from this experience with a healthy amount of paranoia and skepticism. I used to work in finance, and the rule in that industry is that current performance is not an indicator of future performance.

Our industry and our world are facing unprecedented change and we need to be ready to adapt quickly. The Napa Valley tourism industry is ready to face this “new normal” head on and return to a path of prosperity for our community ahead.

And when it comes to the COVID-19 issue, what are some the lessons learned for the business community?

That’s a difficult question to answer with any authority or certainty. Until I have the time and space to reflect on this experience, I hesitate to answer. However, as we continue to navigate this storm at present, collaboration, partnership, transparency, and authenticity are paramount for future success.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I have had many mentors, male and female, who have set great examples of strong leadership. I’ve learned a lot from my wine industry colleagues.

But as a tourism leader, I now have the opportunity to work with more women leaders and enjoy the camaraderie — especially among those who suddenly became homeschool teachers overnight like I did.

My husband and I work to juggle our work and family responsibilities, but having an industry-wide crisis and homeschooling crisis at the same time was an additional obstacle. Like all full-time working mothers, I struggle each day to attain the illusive balance that we all strive to achieve.

I often say that some days I am a good mother, some days I am a good wife, and some days I am a good employee, but that is never all on the same day. 😊

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

The tourism industry in Napa Valley will have fully recovered. We will have restored the lost government funding from our TOT and sales tax contributions. And we will have made great progress on issues from affordable housing to transportation to further improve the quality of life in our valley.

Who was your most important mentor?

I have had three women mentors who have set great examples with their leadership and provided inspiration, guidance and perspective for me in my professional journey.

• First is Stephanie Gallo, CMO of E&J Gallo Winery, who recruited me from business school to join her marketing team after I completed my MBA studies (during the interview process I disclosed that I was from Vermont, knew nothing about wine and drank milk with most meals).

She had confidence, which I did not, about teaching me the wine business. I am eternally thankful for my experience at the winery and what I learned from her leadership.

• Second is Linda Reiff, president & CEO of Napa Valley Vintners. Linda has long set the gold standard for trade association management, community building, and industry leadership. I so appreciate the opportunity to continue to collaborate with Linda and her team in my new role here at Visit Napa Valley.

• Third is Caroline Beteta, CEO of Visit California. She is a visionary leader of California’s statewide destination management organization and someone I have long admired and looked up to. Her ability to bring leaders together around a common vision is inspiring. And I have had so much fun traveling with her all over the world “in her orbit” helping to spread the word about California’s iconic and aspirational lifestyle and hospitality. I feel so fortunate to be able to continue to work and learn from her in this new role.

• And on a personal level, my parents have set an amazing and inspiring example of how hard work on the professional front and a prioritization of family can successfully coexist. I am forever grateful for both the roots and the wings they have given me.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

Both tourism and wine offer many exciting career paths and opportunities to advance while seeing the world. Take advantage of every professional development opportunity that comes your way. Large hotel brands, in particular, have excellent in-house training, management and leadership development programs.

And there is no better place to learn the wine business inside and out than family-owned E&J Gallo Winery.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Stephanie Gallo, Linda Reiff and Caroline Beteta

Typical day at the office: I get into the office before most of the rest of the team, after getting my kindergartener and 2nd grader off to school.

My day is always full of conference calls and meetings with my staff team, our Visit Napa Valley partners and members (we have 400+visitor-serving businesses who are our partners), our elected officials, our marketing and PR agencies, etc. However, needless to say, the past four months have not been the norm.

Best place to work outside of your office: Anywhere in the Napa Valley

Current reading: People magazine

Most want to meet: Oprah Winfrey. Forever an inspiration and leader.

Social media you most use: I really have little time for social media these days. It has been helpful to monitor Facebook to see how my community is doing.

Stress relievers: Wine, of course, and enjoying the many beautiful outdoor spaces in Napa Valley with my family and friends.

Favorite hobbies: Wine is a hobby, right? And Netflix and the occasional Peloton spin class.

What would parents or significant others say if asked to brag about you?

Humble, understated, dedicated, kind, caring and loyal.

Is there something we didn’t ask that you would like to add?

Thank you for this opportunity and recognition!

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