Discover Lehigh Valley, the tourism agency for Lehigh and Northampton counties, will have a new president starting Oct. 1.
Its board of directors voted to appoint Alex Michaels to the post to replace Michael Stershic, who has helmed Discover Lehigh Valley for the past 14 years and is retiring.
Stershic announced his retirement in March. He will be staying on through a transition period until the end of the year.
Michaels was chosen after a national search.
“We were lucky to get more than 70 applicants from all kinds of industries,” said Kassie Hilgert, president and CEO of ArtsQuest and chair of the Discover Lehigh Valley board of directors. She co-chaired the search committee with Kurt Landes, president and general manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
She said Michaels was the perfect combination. Michaels is a former Lehigh Valley resident and 1987 Whitehall High School graduate who has more than 25 years of executive sales and management experience in hospitality, tourism, and sports council industries that he will bring to the position.
Michaels is vice president of sales and services for Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge and chief operating officer for Virginia’s Blue Ridge Sports Council. Prior to that, he held positions as director of national accounts and director of sales at Visit Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“What’s unique about Alex is that I think we have a lot of talent here in the Lehigh Valley, but for tourism you also want someone with experience in other parts of the country and their best practices,” Hilgert said. “With Alex, you have both.”
Travel and tourism are responsible for more than $2 billion spent annually in the region. The industry also provides 24,750 jobs and generates $480 million in tax revenue, according to statistics provided by Discover Lehigh Valley.