Visit Bal­ti­more picks Ala. tourism of­fi­cer to be CEO

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Natalie Sher­man nsh­er­man@balt­

An Alabama tourism of­fi­cer who over­saw the launch of a brand­ing cam­paign for one of that state’s port cities has been named the next leader of Bal­ti­more’s tourism and con­ven­tion bu­reau.

Al Hutchin­son, 57, is ex­pected to start as pres­i­dent and CEO of Visit Bal­ti­more on Nov. 14, Bal­ti­more’s Con­ven­tion and Tourism board of di­rec­tors said Mon­day. He suc­ceeds Tom Noo­nan, who left Visit Bal­ti­more in May for a po­si­tion in Austin, Texas.

A Virginia na­tive, Hutchin­son grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Alabama and was most re­cently the pres­i­dent and CEO of Visit Mo­bile. Prior to Mo­bile, he worked at the Virginia Beach Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bu­reau for more than 11 years. He also has held po­si­tions in Pitts­burgh and Charlotte.

Hutchin­son said he was drawn to the po­si­tion be­cause of Bal­ti­more’s rep­u­ta­tion in the in­dus­try. He said he ex­pects to start his new role by meet­ing with stake­hold­ers.

“I want to come there with an open ear, not with an ar­ro­gance that I have all the an­swers,” he said. “I want to lis­ten to the com­mu­nity and find out where our gaps are.”

Top pri­or­i­ties for the board in­clude build­ing Bal­ti­more’s brand and get­ting the city and state to move for­ward on plans for a big­ger con­ven­tion cen­ter, said board chair John Frisch.

The Maryland Sta­dium Au­thor­ity said in Au­gust it would com­mis­sion a new study look­ing at ways to ren­o­vate the ex­ist­ing cen­ter. The pro­posal has been dis­cussed for years but lacked fund­ing for fol­low-through and con­sen­sus about what an ex­pan­sion should in­clude.

Hutchin­son was se­lected af­ter a na­tional search and re­view of more than two dozen ap­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing ex­ten­sive in­ter­views with six can­di­dates, Frisch said. Hutchin­son met with out­go­ing Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake and state Sen. Cather­ine Pugh, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee for mayor, as part of the in­ter­view process.

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