Cathy Ritter

Former Colorado Tourism Office director Cathy Ritter

Colorado Tourism Office longtime director Cathy Ritter left the position as of Thursday, the Office of Economic Development and International Trade confirmed.

“We thank Cathy for her contributions to the state and we wish her the best of luck,” according to the OEDIT statement. “The Interim Colorado Tourism Director will be CTO Deputy Director Jill Corbin. We will be posting for the Colorado Tourism Director position in the coming days.”

Ritter declined comment Friday.

She held the position since 2015. Her sudden departure was first reported by the Denver Business Journal.

Before the pandemic shut down all travel and devastated the tourism industry, Colorado had posted a record 86.9 million visitors, up 2% from the prior year. Those visitors spent $2.4 billion that year, up 7.3% year-over-year. That was well above the national average increase of 4.3%, according to CTO.

"As Colorado’s summer tourism season approaches, the Colorado Tourism Office remains committed to helping our industry and communities conduct responsible tourism activity that aligns with Colorado’s ongoing public health guidelines," Corbin said via email. "Colorado’s Tourism Office is a dedicated team of talented professionals and, as Interim Director, I will continue to engage our CTO board to collaborate with our team and help our partners safely continue their path to economic recovery."

Just four days ago, OEDIT announced Ritter had been appointed to the board of The Travel Foundation, based in Bristol, England. She is the first non-U.K. appointee to the board.

"It is an honor to support The Travel Foundation in its mission of driving global tourism sustainability," Ritter said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to cross-pollinating its innovative thinking with ideas emerging in Colorado and elsewhere in North America. Finding ways to identify and address visitor impacts is absolutely essential to securing the future health of the world's biggest industry and ensuring that it delivers maximum benefits for tourism destinations."

 The release went on to list Ritter’s success at leading the CTI: “The CTO, led by Ritter, was the first U.S. state travel office to develop a comprehensive destination stewardship plan aimed at inspiring travelers to reduce their impacts. … Ritter’s extensive career is one of industry advocacy and leadership."

"In addition to being named a trustee, Ritter is chair of the National Council of State Tourism Directors (NCSTD) and sits on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Travel Association. She also is the secretary-treasurer of the Western States Tourism Policy Council. A journalist by training, she has worked in nonprofits and formerly headed Illinois' tourism office.”