Project Lead

Cathy Ritter

Founder & CEO

Managing tourism dynamics during times of prosperity and crisis, Cathy has built a reputation for partnership and turning insights into action. From her award-winning journalism career to top marketing and communications roles in government and nonprofits, she has cultivated a network of expert resources, now a key asset for the tourism consultancy she founded in spring 2021.

Better Destinations LLC is a flexible consulting practice founded on a belief that healthy visitor ecosystems grow from addressing a holistic range of considerations. Based in Denver, the company is focused on helping destination organizations maximize the benefits of tourism, while addressing impacts, to achieve overall positive outcomes and build support for tourism.

Better Destinations has built a specialty around working with places where tourism pressures are fueling conflict and straining infrastructure, resources, and local quality of life. Cathy has played leading roles in major planning efforts for Lake Tahoe, Vail, Glacier Country Tourism (near Glacier National Park), Missoula and North Myrtle Beach. In June, Better Destinations was chosen to lead a unique sustainable tourism/economic development planning process for Moab/Grand County (UT). Her work has won top state awards for clients in Marquette County, MI, and Port Aransas, TX. Her client list also includes Nevada, where Cathy is guiding a two-year project to create a model statewide destination development program from the ground up.

As one of a handful of people who have led tourism offices for multiple states, Cathy has built a reputation for creating customized, insight-led solutions for emerging tourism challenges. As Illinois’ state travel director from 1999 to 2003, she directed a $60 million budget, second only to Hawai’i’s at the time, and led development of the Illinois Tourism Blueprint, which guided the industry for nearly two decades. Following 9/11, she led a statewide collaboration to regenerate tourism fast, lifting the state’s share of leisure travelers by 13% in one year.

As Director of the Colorado Tourism Office from 2015 to 2021, she led creation of the Colorado Tourism Roadmap. To educate Colorado travelers about protecting natural resources, she approached the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in 2017, creating a ground-breaking alliance that has become a model for many other destinations and fueled the state’s widely recognized Care for Colorado program. She encouraged her entire team to seek certificates of sustainable tourism from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, earning that designation herself in 2018.

A long-time student of government, Cathy became an Illinois statehouse reporter after breaking a national story of judicial corruption in Chicago that led to 93 indictments and the conviction of 15 judges. She also exposed a state agency’s coverup of chemical waste in a regional drinking water supply, triggering one of the first U.S. Superfund cleanups. After serving in state government communication roles, she wrote a series of widely reported position papers for a successful Illinois gubernatorial campaign. Those experiences were key to the strong public policy perspective she has brought to her work ever since, especially as a state tourism director.

Cathy currently serves as a Trustee of the Travel Foundation, an international NGO focused on reducing impacts of tourism. She chaired the National Council of State Tourism Directors during the early years of Covid and has served on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Travel Association and as an officer of the Western States Tourism Policy Council. She is a member of the Arts & Culture Advisory Council for America 250, the nonprofit charged with planning the celebration of the nation’s 250th birthday in 2026. She was a contributing author for Overtourism: Lessons for a Better Future (Island Press, 2021).