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