tourism

Michael Martelon, who has been the Telluride Tourism Board CEO and president for over a decade, is stepping down, the tourism board announced Thursday. (Courtesy photo)

After a decade-plus as the Telluride Tourism Board’s CEO and president, Michael Martelon is stepping down. The tourism board announced Thursday the mutual decision to “pivot,” including a change in leadership, citing “recent discussions involving destination marketing and management going forward,” according to a prepared statement.

“We believe now is time for the business community and the municipalities to speak with a more unified, collective voice,” tourism board chair Dan Jansen said in the announcement. “In order to accomplish this goal, we’ll be reaching out across our community, including to elected officials, local businesses, nonprofits and many others, to establish a collective vision for the future of the organization’s role.

“We look forward to working hand-in-hand with the community to build a better, more inclusive, communicative, diversified, tourism-sustainability focused team to provide expert industry perspective.”

The change will “establish a new path forward for the organization and its work in supporting the community and the regional economy,” according to the statement. It went on to explain that “now is an ideal time for a change in leadership,” and “Martelon will step down from his position, while the board more fully assesses its desire for the future leadership of this evolving entity.”

“We wish Michael the best with his future professional endeavors,” Jansen added. “He is a highly qualified professional that we know will continue his passion for sustainable tourism and using data to better comprehend its impacts on community and environment.”

In his nearly 11 years leading the tourism board, Martelon was instrumental in establishing the visitor’s center on Main Street, as well as launching the website telluride.com and the area’s only brand campaign in collaboration with Telski. Known for his love of numbers and the tourism picture they paint, he was also a proponent of developing and analyzing new data metrics from several different sources, including the wastewater treatment plant to measure overall visitation numbers, MuniRevs for aggregated tax data and Key Data for lodging performance.

“It has been an honor to serve. It’s a beautiful environment and ever-evolving community that I have been grateful to have had the opportunity to support over the past decade. I can’t say enough about the team of dedicated, longtime locals that drive our efforts. It’s time to manage the success of those efforts and have multi-jurisdictional dialogue for a collaborative path forward,” Martelon said in the announcement. He declined to provide further comment Thursday.

Martelon will continue to consult with the tourism board as it “charts its new course of deepening its understanding of what the local communities, their elected officials, the business community and others want regarding the marketing and management of the destination, and how those decisions impact the region,” the statement explained.

The announcement comes within a week of the Town of Mountain Village’s decision to select Marketing Telluride Inc (MTI, which is also the Telluride Tourism Board) and Denver marketing firm Karsh Hagen in its marketing Request for Proposal (RFP) process, which was announced in October 2021.

Both Mountain Village and Town of Telluride officials have discussed how dollars are spent on tourism over the past year. Mountain Village will work with both firms under a contract-for-services structure.

“The town will work closely with MTI to develop its budget and strategies for tourism marketing,” according to a Mountain Village news release announcing the decision.

Zoe Dohnal, Mountain Village’s business development and sustainability director, reacted to the tourism board’s announcement and thanked Martelon for all he’s done.

“The town and our entire community are so grateful to Michael and all he has done for our destination. He led the tourism board to unprecedented achievements and built a strong team along the way,” she told the Daily Planet Thursday. “We are excited to continue to work with the valued staff of MTI, each with a long-standing history within the organization and our community. MTI continues to offer an intimate knowledge of our destination and the expertise to execute our interests to the highest potential.”

Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez shared a similar sentiment last week.

“MTI has demonstrated a willingness to be flexible and adapt to changing conditions, while focusing on our role in the region. We are thrilled that we can maintain and grow this special partnership moving forward,” Benitez said in the release.

The town will meet with MTI and Karsh Hagan over the next several weeks to discuss contracts, but Dohnal explained the marketing RFP allowed candidates to bid on it as a whole or specific aspects, as it outlined 13 objectives the town felt were pertinent to its future marketing efforts.

“With this, it was clear that MTI offered a uniquely personal knowledge of our destination and needs,” she added. “Still, Karsh Hagan wowed the selection committee with innovative ideas on advertising Mountain Village. The combination of both firms positions the town to have the experts in our destination, MTI, work with some of the leading creative minds in the industry. We feel confident this newly formed collaboration will bring further success to our destination.”

Karsh Hagan will focus on further developing collateral assets — digital, print collateral and paid media — and media strategy, Dohnal explained.

“Karsh Hagan has an impressive portfolio of experience in outdoor recreation focused destinations, especially in Colorado. They will bring a fresh look to our destination's marketing efforts and a new perspective on how to highlight Mountain Village’s offerings,” she said.