The Heart of Tourism with Tammy Canavan, CEO of Visit Seattle

Welcome to another episode of the Tourism Academy Podcast! I'm your host, Stephen Ekstrom, the CEO and co-founder of Tourism Academy. Today, we have a fascinating interview with Tammy Canavan, President & CEO of Visit Seattle, a seasoned professional with over 35 years of experience in the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) space.


In this enlightening conversation, Tammy shares her deep love for Seattle and how it aligns with her values. Living right downtown, she enjoys the vibrant atmosphere and the myriad of things to do and see. What surprised her most about Seattle, despite her extensive experience, was the incredible number of stakeholders invested in leaving a positive legacy for the community.

Tammy opens up about her personal and professional legacy, expressing her desire to have a positive impact on people's lives, both personally and professionally. As she nears retirement, her goal is to make this role at Visit Seattle her final stop on the adventure before she can travel freely.

We delve into the importance of tourism in contributing to the economic vibrancy of the community. Tammy emphasizes that tourism is not just about visitors; it's about community and legacy. She highlights vital projects on Seattle's waterfront, creating open and accessible spaces for the public and hosting events like the NHL Winter Classic that enhance the community's experience.

We explore the challenges of resident sentiment and the extra effort needed to engage the local community. Tammy shares anecdotes about misconceptions residents may have about the tourism industry, emphasizing the importance of telling a deeper story and building community pride through partnerships with local media.

Drawing from her extensive travels, Tammy reflects on the concept of a "sense of place and welcome." She discusses how the perception of welcoming evolves with maturity and experience, emphasizing the importance of connecting on a deeper level through shared commonalities.

Tammy sheds light on the diverse nature of the tourism industry, describing it as a lifestyle and a way of life. From her early days as a hotel dishwasher and reservation agent to her current role as CEO, she underscores the passion required to thrive in the industry. She encourages aspiring professionals to explore what excites them.

As the conversation unfolds, Tammy shares insights on the magical aspects of the tourism industry, where welcoming newcomers is a shared passion. She encourages those curious about the industry to reach out to professionals and emphasizes the willingness of the community to share experiences.

Tammy reflects on her inspirations in the industry, expressing gratitude for mentors like Rick Antonson and Maura Gast, who have provided guidance and support throughout her journey. She acknowledges the challenges of leadership in the DMO space, where opportunities abound, but the need for sleep and family attention limits capacity.

In a candid moment, Tammy reveals her desire to continue evolving as a leader, inspiring others, and prioritizing what's truly important. She acknowledges the difficulty of saying "no" and emphasizes the importance of expressing love, appreciation, and pride to those around her.

As we wrap up this insightful conversation, Tammy reflects on her wish list, and I share my thoughts on what I don't say often enough to those around me. It's a candid and heartfelt discussion that provides a glimpse into the life and perspectives of a dedicated leader in the tourism industry.

Join us for this enriching episode, where we explore the depth of the tourism industry, the importance of community engagement, and the personal journey of a remarkable leader, Tammy Canavan.

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