GRAND RAPIDS, MI -
Wit Tuttell, Director of Visit North Carolina, has been named national State Tourism Director of the Year for 2022.
Tuttell was announced as the honoree before more than 1,000 destination marketing professionals at the U.S. Travel Association’s annual Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference, the premier annual gathering for destination and tourism leaders, held this year in Grand Rapids, MI. U.S. Travel’s National Council of State Tourism Directors—a body representing the official tourism offices of all states and U.S. territories—votes on the award annually ahead of ESTO.
Since taking the helm of North Carolina’s destination marketing organization in November 2013, Tuttell has led the state through a remarkable period of growth, engineering creative strategies that helped North Carolina become one of the top-visited states in the nation.
Throughout the pandemic, Tuttell also prioritized effective communication across the state’s 100 counties, hosting a webinar series that equipped partners with crucial information and resources to allow them to facilitate recovery efforts in their own communities. Tuttell further led Count On Me NC, a public health initiative—launched in collaboration with other industry groups and public health officials—that promoted safe travel practices to help businesses reopen in the wake of the pandemic. The program was adopted in all counties across the state, ensuring alignment on public health messaging.
“North Carolinians could not have asked for a better leader to guide the state’s tourism industry through the challenges of the pandemic and back to growth,” said outgoing U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Wit’s dynamic approach to destination marketing was critical to ensuring businesses could reopen their doors and safely welcome back visitors to the Tar Heel State.
“Wit’s passion for North Carolina shines through in Visit NC’s creative and compelling marketing campaigns, which highlight the very best of North Carolina’s energy, charm and natural beauty," Dow added.
After pivoting to promote more contactless travel experiences at the height of the pandemic, Tuttell shifted the organization back to more active travel promotion in spring 2021 with a new multichannel brand campaign, “Get Back to a Better Place.” Third party research determined a staggering 32:1 return in state and local taxes generated per dollar of media investment. Visit NC reports the campaign strengthened the state’s market share, helping it remain one of the top 5 most-visited states in 2021.
“Wit Tuttell has provided extraordinary leadership for one of our state’s most vital industries,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. “Wit's efforts have helped North Carolina emerge from the pandemic with record domestic spending in 2021 and his leadership has been instrumental in the creation of Outdoor NC with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. I appreciate Wit's partnership and efforts to make our state an even better place to live, work and visit for generations to come.”
Outdoor NC is a sustainability-focused initiative designed to enhance enjoyment of outdoor spaces while minimizing ecological impact.
Tuttell and Visit NC have been recognized nationally numerous times, receiving the 2019 Mercury Award from the U.S. Travel Association for outstanding Branding and Integrated Marketing and twice being named State Tourism Office of the Year by the Southeast Tourism Society. In 2021, Visit NC was honored with a Mercury Award for its advocacy and grassroots campaign, a recognition of the exceptional value Tuttell and his team delivered to partners amid unprecedented challenges.
Tuttell has 30 years of experience in the tourism industry and has been with North Carolina tourism since 2006. He previously worked for Universal Studios Florida and the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. Tuttell has also lent his expertise to U.S. Travel Association’s board of directors and has served as chair of Travel South USA’s board of directors.
Candidates for State Tourism Director of the Year are nominated by state and territory tourism directors. A slate of three finalists is presented annually for selection by ballot.
U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry. Travelers in the United States are estimated to spend $1.1 trillion in 2022 (still 10% below 2019 levels). U.S. Travel advocates for policies to accelerate an even recovery across the travel industry and restore economic and job growth for this essential contributor to our nation’s success. Visit ustravel.org for information and recovery-related data.