For more than a quarter century, Richard W. Scharf Jr. has been instrumental in growing all aspects of convention and tourism business in Denver. He has been president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau, since March 2004, managing a staff of 65 associates, which includes regional offices in Chicago and Washington D.C. With 1,300 private business members and an annual budget of $37 million, VISIT DENVER is a non-profit association responsible for marketing Denver as a convention and leisure destination. Under Scharf’s leadership, Denver has set new tourism records for the last 12 years, culminating in 2017 with a record 31.7 million total visitors who spent more than $5.6 billion dollars. Since 2005, Denver has seen a 62 percent increase in leisure visitors, compared to only a 22 percent increase nationally over the same time period.
Scharf has also been responsible for greatly increasing VISIT DENVER’s marketing resources, leading a public vote campaign in 2005 that successfully increased the organization’s marketing budget by 50 percent. In 2017, he worked with the Hotel Association to create a new Tourism Improvement District, which will help pay for the $233 million expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, and greatly increase VISIT DENVER’s marketing dollars. He has also been involved in adding tourism and convention infrastructure, serving as a chief consultant on the 2004 expansion of the Colorado Convention Center and played a major role in the development of Denver’s adjacent 1,100-room Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel. In 2015, Scharf worked closely with the National Western Association, to lead a successful public vote campaign to expand the Colorado Convention Center and completely redevelop the National Western complex. He is currently serving on Mayor Hancock’s center expansion advisory team with the second expansion scheduled for a 2022 completion date.
In 1999, Scharf was the second person to be inducted into the Colorado Hotel Sales & Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame. He is an active member in all travel industry associations and currently serves on the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association, Colorado State University’s Master of Tourism Management, Von’s Vision, and is a past board member of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, Destination Colorado, Metro Denver Sports Commission, and Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), and DMAI Foundation. He served two terms as chairman of the board of the Colorado Tourism Office under two Governors. Scharf also served on the Mayor and Governor’s Olympic Exploratory Committee as chairman of the Community & Civic Engagement Committee. He is a member of Colorado Concern, which is a nonpartisan association of CEO’s who work towards solutions to mutual statewide business challenges.