Tammy Blount-Canavan has been the public face of the local tourism industry in her nearly eight years as CEO of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She’s stood at many a city council podium, sat on numerous panels at neighborhood and regional meetings and addressed the Monterey County Board of Supervisors enough times to earn frequent flyer miles, if such a thing existed for talking about tourism.
Blount-Canavan is now flying away from Monterey County, at least as MCCVB’s CEO. She’s stepping down at the end of August.
No public announcement was made after she met with the MCCVB Board of Directors earlier this summer, during a busy tourist season and the lead-up to Car Week. Since the bureau uses public funds supplied by cities and Monterey County, all board agendas are posted to the public and recent agendas in July and August state the CEO position is open. A search committee met on Aug. 12 and again on Aug. 20.
Blount-Canavan confirms that she is stepping down and taking an executive vice president and principal position with the management consulting firm Fired Up Culture!, based in Washington State. Blount-Canavan will work from home in Santa Cruz County.
After 30 years in the business of tourism, “I’m at a point in my life where it’s ‘next chapter’ time,” she says. She’s been using Fired Up as a consulting firm for 10 years, including as a contractor for the MCCVB. The firm helped the bureau overcome obstacles and become a stronger organization through a survey process and follow-up coaching, she says.
With Fired Up she’ll work on building a practice of consulting for other convention and visitors bureaus, allowing her to be entrepreneurial while staying “in the world that I love,” she says.
Rob O’Keefe, the MCCVB’s vice president of marketing and communications, will serve as interim CEO during the search, which is expected to take approximately three to six months.
Over her time with the bureau, Blount-Canavan says she helped develop a transparent process on how it’s been working to strengthen the tourism economy. She and her staff have also focused on developing strong relationships with local government agencies.
She’s proud of the Sustainable Moments campaign, which has sought to educate visitors about leaving less of an impact on the county’s unique environmental aspects, as well as getting along with residents.
It’s been an uphill climb against the “Instagram Effect,” social media forces that have led to a sharp spike in tourists to Big Sur and other areas of the coast. Blount-Canavan has found herself playing defense at many public meetings in the last couple of years, as residents have questioned how much benefit the county’s number-two industry—tourism's estimated value is more than $2.9 billion—brings to the region. Residents of some cities, like Carmel, have even called for stopping contributions to the bureau, as well as ending all marketing of the county.
The MCCVB 2017-18 annual report lists revenues of $7 million, with $2.6 million coming from local jurisdictions and $4.1 million coming from the Monterey County Tourism Improvement District, through a nightly levy of up to $2 on hotel stays charged to guests. The bureau spent $6.9 million in the same year on its operations, including $2.7 million on marketing and communications.
After a send-off at the MCCVB's annual luncheon on Aug. 29, and leaving as CEO, Blount-Canavan will continue working on a transportation plan for hospitality workers with the city of Monterey for a couple of months. The plan was part of a negotiation that came about after City Manager Hans Uslar recommended the city cap its contribution to the bureau. Councilmember Alan Haffa suggested a compromise increase in return for the transportation plan.
As for the bureau’s contract with Fired Up, Blount-Canavan says if the MCCVB does continue contracting with the consulting firm, another principal with the firm would likely take over the account.