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New Head of Destination Management announced

Harrogate Convention Centre


Today (14th Sept 2020), Harrogate Borough Council announced the appointment of Gemma Rio, its new Head of Destination Management. Gemma will create a new Destination Management Organisation (DMO) for the district of Harrogate.

The purpose of this exciting new organisation is to position Harrogate District as an exceptional place to visit, meet and invest. Consisting of Visit Harrogate, Events Harrogate and Invest Harrogate, the new DMO will create a unified voice for partners, business and residents of the District.

The role will involve working closely with the Council, Harrogate and Ripon BIDs, Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association and other organisations and businesses right across the District to drive economic growth and support the district's recovery plans following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gemma will start in post in early October and joins Harrogate Borough Council from the Tees Valley Combined Authority, where she led on visitor economic growth.

During her time in Tees Valley, Gemma established Enjoy Tees Valley - the area's first destination marketing service in over seven years. She successfully bid for a significant group game of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup and, most recently, developed a COVID-19 Recovery Programme for the Tees Valley visitor economy.

Before this, Gemma held positions as Director of Marketing, Membership and Business Development for an Australian Economic Development and Destination Management Body named Townsville Enterprise. While overseas, Gemma also ran the Townsville North Queensland Convention Bureau and Event Bidding Fund, securing both business and leisure events to drive visitor expenditure into the destination.

Gemma Rio said:

"The Harrogate District is home to some genuinely excellent visitor experiences, and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to establish its new Destination Management Organisation to ensure those experiences attract more and more high-spending visitors.

"This is undoubtedly a challenging time for the visitor economy. However, there are already promising signs of recovery in the Harrogate District, with the Visit Harrogate website seeing record web traffic in recent months. I'm looking forward to supporting the sector in navigating these uncertain times, maximising the opportunity in increased domestic travel, and preparing for what we hope will be a robust 2021 spring/summer season."

A spokesperson from Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association said:

"This appointment recognises the importance of a strong destination strategy for Harrogate District and can only be good news for the region's hospitality sector, especially in the current economic climate."

Paula Lorimer, Director of Harrogate Convention Centre, said:

"Gemma will bring a wealth of industry knowledge and experience having held leadership posts in destination marketing in Townsville Australia and as Tourism Manager at Tees Valley Combined Authority. I am sure the whole district will join me in welcoming Gemma and wish her every success here in Harrogate."

Gemma Rio, Head of Destination Management
Gemma Rio will join Harrogate Borough Council as Head of Destination Management on 5th October 2020.