UPDATE: New tourism chief known for energy

Seattle hospitality leaders say Indianapolis made a good choice in selecting current Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Donald P. Welsh as its new tourism leader.

“[Welsh] has been a driving force in getting the state to talk about tourism and engaging the governor and mayor,” said Anthony Anton, president of the Washington Restaurant Association. “His energy is incredible. You’re lucky to have him.”

Steve Stoddard, CEO of Seattle-based Restaurants Unlimited Inc., which owns Palomino restaurant in downtown Indianapolis and six eateries in Seattle, said the cities have some similarities.

“Both do a brisk convention business,” Stoddard said. Welsh has done a good job getting local businesses to pitch in on tourism efforts and convincing them of the impact on the entire community, he added.

Current Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association CEO Bob Bedell retires July 31, and Welsh, 52, takes the reins Aug. 1. Bedell earned $353,087 running the association, which has an $11.2 million budget and a staff of 58. An ICVA spokesman said he didn’t know what Welsh will be paid.

Welsh’s background is in the hotel industry, apart from a short stint in 2000 as president of the Continental Basketball Association. He moved to the Seattle bureau in 2003 as senior vice president for sales and marketing. He’s led the organization, with an $11 million budget and staff of 50, since 2005.

Welsh comes aboard as the city attempts to increase its tourism and events prowess with the debut of Lucas Oil Stadium in August and the new Midfield airport terminal in October. By late 2010, Indianapolis also will have an expanded convention center and a new 1,600-room convention hotel complex in its arsenal.

Indianapolis is a “marketer’s dream come true,” Welsh said in a statement.

More than 100 applicants were screened for the job. Search committee leader and Indiana Pacers executive Jim Morris said Welsh is the right fit.

“When he came here to visit, he displayed a genuine passion for our community,” Morris said in a statement.

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