Pete Schultz, left, was recognized recently for more than 25 years as director of the International Falls, Ranier and Rainy Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau. At right is Mike Wellcome, CVB Board president.

Hannah Kittelson will start May 1 as the director of the International Falls, Ranier and Rainy Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, following retirement of Pete Schultz.

Schultz, who has served as CVB director for the past 16 years, has been involved for more than 25 years in other aspects of the tourism industry, having worked at resorts and served as a long-time board member and president of the convention and visitors bureau.

In the past six weeks, he has assisted in the transition, while working alongside Kittelson.

The CVB is the primary promotion organization for the area, marketing Borderland as a destination to travelers, and providing area resources and advice to tourists, event and meeting planners and the media. The CVB, co-located with the International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce at 301 Second Ave. offers visitors with planning information before and after they arrive in the community.

"Growth in tourism is essential to our area economy; it is an important factor in bringing dollars in, and keeping locals working," said Mike Wellcome, CVB Board president. "The CVB has played an on-going role in attracting visitors."

Kittelson, who was born and raised in International Falls, brings to the position an expertise in conceptualizing and implementing innovative marketing initiatives.

"I am excited to introduce some of these new digital and traditional marketing approaches to the International Falls, Ranier and Rainy Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau," she said in a statement.

Kittelson notes she only left International Falls to attend college at North Dakota State University. After returning to International Falls, she worked as a creative content director, assisting in development of social media strategies and creation of websites for small businesses. She most recently worked as a communications specialist at Border Bank, designing digital marketing campaigns, increasing the bank's online presence and customer interaction, and overseeing all social media platforms.

Her love of Rainy Lake and the area's outdoor opportunities fits well with her new job. When not working, she spends time in the summer fishing, photographing nature and kayaking, and snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice fishing in the winter.

"In my personal life, I am blessed to spend most of my free time on Rainy Lake or taking part in the wonderful outdoor adventures the surrounding area has to offer," she said. "With such a great fondness myself, I am extremely excited for the opportunity to share the allure of this destination with others."

Wellcome called Schultz' vast knowledge of the region a tremendous asset making it difficult to find someone to carry on the CVB mission.

Schultz said the position has allowed him to learn more about Borderland and the region's attractions, which he's been happy to share with the visitors and locals in the community.

Over the years, the message of the CVB has been the same, but its delivery has changed, Schultz said.

"When I started in this position, the primary function of the CVB was to respond to individual information requests," he said in a statement. "The CVB now shares information with website operators, recreation specific groups, tour operators, travel writers and more to reach larger numbers of potential visitors."

He cited how involvement in the World Ploughing Championship in Lake of the Woods County helped introduce visitors to Borderland, as well. The CVB provided familiarization tours to two-busloads of participants and made information available to the thousands of spectators. Many of those people shared an interest in returning to explore the region, Schultz added.

Kittelson, he said, will bring new energy and knowledge the position.

"I expect her abilities and enthusiasm will help make tourism an even more important factor in the local economy," Schultz said.

Schultz recognized CVB officials "for the opportunity to get paid to do something I thoroughly enjoyed."

With Schultz' departure and Kittelson's hiring, Wellcome said the torch has passed.

The lengthy search for the right person for the position began in January, he said.

"We found a perfect match with Hannah," Wellcome said. "She brings a wealth of knowledge of the area as well as the marketing and technical skills the CVB needs to remain relevant in an ever-changing world."