Steve Hayes, a veteran of the hospitality, travel and tourism industries, will become president and CEO of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater effective Dec. 16.
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is Pinellas County’s tourism agency. Tourism is the county’s major industry.
The agency has not had a permanent leader since January, when long-time CEO David Downing resigned. Former Busch Gardens leader James Dean served about two months on an interim basis before he left for another job.
Hayes has led Visit Pensacola since 2013, where he developed the Destination 2020 tourism strategy for the Greater Pensacola Bay Area. Before that, he spent 25 years working for Visit Tampa Bay in various management and leadership roles, including serving as executive vice president.
“Steve’s tourism leadership experience and vast knowledge of our region will make him a tremendous asset to our organization,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton. “He has the talent and vision to take our tourist development efforts to the next level.”
Hayes will be responsible for overseeing daily operations of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.
VSPC and the Tourist Development Council make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on how to use the bed tax, a 6 percent tax collected on accommodations in Pinellas County rented for less than six months.
Hayes was named one of three finalists for the president and CEO post last month after a nationwide search..