Former VISIT DENVER President Roger A. Smith died on Nov. 1 following a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, Denver’s convention and visitors bureau reported yesterday.
Smith, who was 73, served as president of VISIT DENVER — then the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau — from 1984 until 1993. During his tenure, he established a new tourism department, conducted Denver’s first-ever tourism marketing campaign, created an upscale tourism visitors guide and started a volunteer program through which he staffed Denver’s visitor information centers.
On the meetings side, Smith helped Denver more than double future convention bookings by opening convention sales offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, and by starting a telemarketing department. Most notably, however, he was a key figure in approving and designing the Colorado Convention Center.
“Roger brought Denver into the modern era as a convention and tourism destination,” current VISIT DENVER President and CEO Richard Scharf said in a statement. “Much of the $3.6 billion spent in Denver last year by tourists and convention delegates can be traced back to innovations and programs that Roger started. He was the consummate sales leader and knew every customer by first name and put Denver on the map for conventions.”
Smith started his career in sales for Sonesta International Hotels and Westin Hotels. He moved to Denver after four years with the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, and spent the last 10 years of his career as CEO of the Pasadena Civic Center Operating Company. He retired to Tucson, Ariz., in 2006, and moved back to Denver in 2012. He is survived by his wife, Cathy; son, Evan; daughter-in-law, Kate; grandchildren, Owen and Bennett; and brothers, Charles Smith and Steve Downing.
A memorial service will take place Nov. 13 in Greenwood Village, Colo. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.
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