Otte Coleman was announced as the honoree before more than 900 of her peers at the U.S. Travel Association’s annual ESTO conference, held this year in Phoenix. The U.S. Travel Association’s National Council of State Tourism Directors - a body representing the tourism offices of all states and U.S. territories - votes on the award annually ahead of the Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference, the premier annual gathering for destination marketing professionals.
Otte Coleman’s work with the North Dakota Tourism Division exemplifies the power of travel promotion. Otte Coleman initiated a tourism development program that is associated with 40 new tourism businesses and 124 hotels since 2010, and leveraged the state’s unique and natural beauty through the implementation of tribal tourism and agritourism initiatives. Otte Coleman’s efforts to grow the state’s travel industry has been a proven success: travel-related employment in North Dakota increased by 35 percent under her direction, according to the state.
As a result of Otte Coleman’s leadership and vision, the North Dakota Tourism Division forged an ambitious promotional partnership with actor and North Dakota native Josh Duhamel, in which the celebrity serves as an ambassador for the state’s tourism industry—and it’s yielded tremendous results. The campaign launch—which was featured in a segment on NBC's Today Show and in the Associated Press—garnered more than 1.6 billion impressions, and saw Duhamel tout North Dakota tourism as “one of the best-kept secrets in the country.”
“Sara is a true believer in the beauty of North Dakota and the strength of its tourism industry,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “This award is both a recognition of her dedication to her state and roots, and an acknowledgment of the incredible influence her work and enthusiasm for travel has had on this industry. Sara’s unwavering commitment to telling the story of North Dakota—to the country and the world—has benefitted the people of her state immeasurably.”
Said North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum: “Sara is a great champion for North Dakota, and it’s fantastic her peers have recognized her with this award. We’re extremely grateful to Sara and our tourism staff and partners for working diligently to attract new and returning visitors to get that legendary North Dakota experience. Tourism is a key driver of our state’s economic growth, helping to attract a 21st century workforce and generating revenue for hundreds of tourism-based businesses.”
Prior to her current role, Otte Coleman served as the director of administration and marketing for the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she focused on marketing the state’s capital city as a travel destination.
Candidates for State Tourism Director of the Year are nominated by a panel of state and territory tourism directors. A slate of three finalists is presented for selection by ballot.
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