"Cathy's appointment comes at a time of record growth for our tourism industry, and she's just the person to take us to the next level," said Gov. John Hickenlooper. "We are thrilled to have her experience and knowledge on our team. She has been recognized nationwide for her exceptional tourism industry work, and we know she will be a great asset to the state."
In her role as the Colorado Tourism Director, Ritter will lead the state's marketing campaign to attract visitors, as well as develop new initiatives to further Colorado's tourism growth. The position manages all tourism marketing and promotional functions, promoting Colorado around the globe.
"Colorado is such a hot destination, with so many fascinating and fun experiences for all types of travellers," Ritter said. "I'm excited about the opportunities to bring fresh thinking and energy to sharing that message and creating new reasons for travellers to choose Colorado."
Ritter is a prior director of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, where she directed planning and implementation of the bureau's $60 million annual budget, increasing the state's market share by 7 percent. In this role, she also managed the state's tourism marketing message, as well as led state-wide efforts to develop a blueprint to improve Illinois' competitive position and expand the economic impact of tourism. Under her tenure, the bureau was honoured for having the best advertising campaign from the Travel Industry Association of America.
Most recently, Ritter turned her experience of tourism lifestyle marketing into a career as a top marketing executive for three non-profit senior living systems: WesleyLife, Asbury Communities and Friendship Senior Options. Her accomplishments include creating award-winning marketing campaigns and communications initiatives, as well as managing sales teams. Prior to serving as tourism director, Ritter worked for the State of Illinois in various roles, including director of communications for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, deputy press secretary for the Illinois Office of Secretary of State, and as public information officer for the Illinois Commerce Commission. Ritter started her career as a newspaper reporter, working as a statehouse bureau reporter for Lee Enterprises' four Illinois newspapers.
"Our nationwide search for the right person to lead Colorado's tourism effort led us to Cathy Ritter, whose knowledge and expertise in tourism and marketing is incomparable," said Fiona Arnold, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. "Cathy understands innately the leading role tourism has in Colorado and its vital economic impact. She will be a wonderful leader for the Colorado Tourism Office as it continues to deliver the highest quality support for the tourism industry in our state."
Ritter holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois. Tourism is a booming industry in Colorado, employing over 150,000 jobs with earnings of more than $5 billion. Last year, total direct travel spending in Colorado reached $18.6 billion, with 66 percent of that total coming from visitors who stayed overnight in paid accommodations. This record-spending figure represents an increase of 7.4 percent over 2013, significantly outpacing the national growth rate of 4.5 percent in visitor expenditures by 65 percent.