2022 Connect x BizBash 40 Under 40: Elke Opsahl

Elke Opsahl, 39, is the director of convention sales for Visit Salt Lake.

Elke Opsahl

Elke Opsahl, 39, is the director of convention sales for Visit Salt Lake. She's based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What I do:
I help build a robust tourism 401k for Salt Lake City and County, ensuring the future success of the visitor economy. I’m responsible for driving regional tourism through short and long-term sales, marketing and community engagement tactics.

Why I love my job:
It’s fun and meaningful! Every day is different, I get to travel and meet new, interesting people. Also, I know the direct, positive impact my role has on the local employment market, restaurants, retail outlets, hotels, transportation and the broader tourism industry—as well as the indirect benefits for the residents in our community.

My career journey: 
My first experience in tourism was at age 20 when I established my own bed and breakfast in Rome, Italy. After returning to my native city, Salt Lake, in 2012 I worked as the director of sales and marketing for one of our four amazing ski areas, Solitude Mountain Resort. Working closely with Visit Salt Lake (VSL) in that role, a transition as VSL’s director of leisure tourism was quite natural. I’ve since taken on convention roles such as national sales manager (East Coast) and currently director of convention sales. Meeting and conventions are our bread and butter.

My greatest career accomplishment:
I’m quite proud of doubling production over the last three years, and I’m known for giving quite possibly the best site inspection you may have ever experienced.

How I helped my destination during COVID:
Saying COVID was stressful for our industry is an understatement; however, VSL has a great deal of state and county support which allowed me to continue working and booking business from home (all while I helped my three tweens with online schooling). While I normally book five to 10 years out, I secured a very helpful short-term piece of business that our community was very grateful of for August 2021. 

The time I averted a complete event disaster:
We don’t have event disasters in Salt Lake! We’re resilient, resourceful, adaptable and good at improvising. 

My most memorable event experience in the past year:
Welcoming participants back to my city. I had booked the first large convention and expo to return to Salt Lake post-shut-down, and seeing my attendees walking around, eating in restaurants and enjoying our vibrant city was truly heart-warming for me.

Best advice I’ve ever received: 
I’ll never forget a piece of advice my boss gave me when he stole me from VSL’s marketing department. He advised me to manage my time well—to gauge the likelihood of my success and dedicate an appropriate amount of time to each goal or task.

Impressive stats I’m responsible for: 
Annually I generate approximately $80 million in visitor spending (that’s a 100% increase since I started in this role in 2019), and have exceeded booking goals and performance measures each of the previous two years despite the constraints to tourism brought on by the pandemic.

What’s next? 
I’m excited to finish and receive my certification as a CDME (Certified Destination Management Executive) through Destinations International this year. I’m also focused on being even more innovative with our client engagement strategies and event offerings.

What I do outside of work: 
I spend most of my time enjoying my three kids, skiing, cycling and cooking. But I also love to volunteer and make a positive impact: I currently sit on Salt Lake City’s CDCIP Board (2020-2023), where I review US Department of Housing and Urban Development project/program proposals and provide prioritized funding recommendations to the mayor and City Council that pertain to the city’s Community Development Block Grant, Capital Improvement Program and the Emergency Solutions Grant.

I also volunteer at a bakery that is Utah’s only "Second Chance" long-term recovery, workforce reentry program for those recovering from substance use disorders or with a history of incarceration.

Lastly, I sit on Destination International’s 2022 Membership and Sales & Services Committees.

Dream vacation:
I’ve been to 21-plus countries and the list of future destinations is long, but the top of that list would be Cape Verde. I had made a great friend originally from there—the beaches and culture she shared with me seem magical.

Favorite icebreaker line:
What has been the best and worst part of your day?

Connect with Opsahl on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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“Connect x BizBash 40 Under 40” is sponsored by VDA, an experiential marketing and event design agency based in Massachusetts that specializes in custom live, virtual and hybrid experiences.