TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Visit Tucson’s President and CEO Brent DeRaad recently announced his resignation. DeRaad served in the position for nine years and now Felipe Garcia is temporarily filling his space. Garcia has worked at Visit Tucson for 17 years, and was executive vice president for the last nine. Last week, the organization announced him as interim President and CEO.
"It's not that I’m learning something that I have no idea, its just executing a lot of the operational parts,” Garcia said.
Garcia was born in Monterey, Mexico and has played a major role in building relations past Arizona borders. He spearheaded the movement to bring two visitor centers to Mexico and currently hosts a live Mexican TV segment on Tucson every Thursday.
“I love this organization because we’re very disruptive in the industry," Garcia said. "We’re always looking into where there’s an opportunity and how can we do it. We talk to other tourism industries throughout the country and they look at Tucson like ‘Really, are you doing that?’”
Garcia says he already has plans for Visit Tucson.
“For many months or years, in the back of my head, I have a notepad I write ideas of this could be good that we’re going that way,” Garcia said.
He says Tucson gem shows will be bigger and better next year, as American borders reopen to international travel. Garcia also wants to build on Tucson’s Agave Heritage Festivals, so they attract the same tourism as the gem shows.
“We’ve been doing the Agave Heritage Festival for many years very successfully so now we’re building other events around it so we can have maybe 10 days of activities, events in may that will bring individuals here, those volumes of people to our community,” Garcia said.
He hopes to improve food tourism as well.
“Using food, gastronomy as a catalyst, to attract tourism to attract attention to our community, I think that’s something that we have to be working on,” Garcia said.
Garcia says he's been working on a big project to attract international visitors. He wouldn't give details, but did say to expect something in march or April of next year.
“We’re going to do something that’s going to work, and going to be one of those that appears in publications out there like 'Wow, Tucson did this thing that’s so unique but successful,'” Garcia said.
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