A leader of Greater Williamsburg’s tourism and business endeavors is stepping down and heading to South Carolina.
Karen Riordan, president of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance, was announced Tuesday as the new president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Riordan, who has been with the Williamsburg chamber since 2014, begins her new position Aug. 20.
“I’m beyond thrilled,” Riordan said about her new job at a news conference Tuesday at the Myrtle Beach chamber’s headquarters.
Riordan said she visited Myrtle Beach in early May to become reacquainted with the area.
“I don’t want to be a visitor anymore,” she said. “I want to live here, work here.”
In a news release, the Williambsurg chamber thanked Riordan for her service to the organization and wished her well.
“On behalf of the board of directors, I want to express our appreciation to Karen for her leadership of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance over these past four and a half years. We wish her continued success in her new position,” said board Chair Jeanne Zeidler.
“Karen has helped our region accomplish major change during her tenure, including a new brand positioning of our destination, and increased funding for tourism marketing in the future,” Zeider continued. “Such changes set up our region for long-term success. She has led a skilled and talented staff at GWCTA who will continue the work of supporting local businesses, marketing our destination, and assisting with other community building efforts.”
A new chapter
In the Williamsburg chamber’s release, Riordan said the move allows her to lead “the next chapter of phenomenal tourism success” for Myrtle Beach. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has more than 2,800 members.
The Myrtle Beach chamber also has a “unique model” like the Williamsburg chamber, in which it leads all business and tourism initiatives, Riordan said.
The Myrtle Beach area has seen growth in tourism in the past 10 years. The area had more than 19 million visitors in 2017, and is expected to break that record in 2018.
The area also has more than 60 miles of beaches, championship golf courses and a “vibrant” culinary and entertainment scene.
In Williamsburg, Riordan pushed to update the Williamsburg area’s tourist attractions, adding culinary arts, entertainment and the area’s brewery and winery scene to the well-known historic attractions.
Who is Karen Riordan?
Riordan was named the 2018 Chamber Executive of the Year by the Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives in June.
During her time as the chamber’s president and CEO the chamber sponsored the Williamsburg Harvest Celebration and the Williamsburg Taste Festival, which showcased locally-produced beer, wine, food, music and art.
Before becoming president and CEO of GWCTA Riordan spent 28 years working in the advertising industry for clients including Colonial Williamsburg, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Choice Hotels and Amtrak.
Riordan moved to northern Virginia in 2005. She and her family took frequent trips to visit Williamsburg, and when the search firm contacted Riordan she said the opportunity was too good to be true.
“This is a dream job for me,” Riordan said at the time of her hiring.
In 2012, the Washington Business Journal named her one of Washington’s “Women Who Mean Business.” One year later, in 2013, she received the American Advertising Federation’s top award, the Silver Medal Award for community service.
Riordan also serves on the Virginia Association Chamber of Commerce Executives Board of Directors, the Williamsburg Landing Board of Directors and the Heritage Humane Society Board of Directors.