After 15 years as president and CEO of DMichael Gehrischestination Marketing Association International (DMAI), Michael Gehrisch announced this week that he is stepping down to oversee his family real estate investments and pursue hospitality-related technology investments.

“Fifteen years in one organization is long enough for any association executive,” Gehrisch said. “My time leading DMAI has been one of the biggest highlights of my career.”

Gehrisch has more than 29 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including 13 years as executive vice president for American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) and vice president of sales for World Res Technologies. Earlier in his career, he held management positions with Marriott and Hilton hotels.

“This was a perfect time to turn over the leadership of the organization, leaving my successor with a healthy, prospering and influential position in the market place,” said Gehrisch, who will consult with DMAI during the leadership transition.

Exclusive Interview

In a recent exclusive interview with Smart Meetings, Gehrisch said that DMAI’s growth is much more than numbers, although the association’s membership has ballooned to more than 600 destination marketing organizations (DMOs) in more than 20 countries under his leadership. Here’s an excerpt from our interview:

“The 600 DMOs in more than 20 countries represents DMAI’s membership network. There’s actually a much larger community of DMOs globally. We are working to engage that broader community more, with an understanding that engagement doesn’t always entail bringing in new members, but rather providing tools and resources that can be used by the global DMO community.

“As an example, we had 327 DMOs from 36 different countries participate in our DestinationNEXT Phase I research. We also held workshops verifying the results of our work in Latin America, Europe, Australia and the United States.

“Just as I mentioned before, DMOs from varying regions of the world will require different tools and resources to tackle the various challenges that they face. But there is still enormous power that comes with bringing the industry together to communicate the tremendous impact that destination market has on communities, and that is something we are working to do on a global scale.”