VISIT PHILADELPHIA President and CEO Jeff Guaracino Passes Away
On Dec. 28, Jeff Guaracino, president and CEO of VISIT PHILADELPHIA, passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 48 years old.
A Philadelphia native and passionate tourism leader, Guaracino served two stints at VISIT PHILADELPHIA, first as director of communications and vice president of communications from 2001 to 2012, and then as president and CEO in 2018.
According to VISIT PHILADELPHIA officials, under Guaracino’s leadership, VISIT PHILADELPHIA continued driving leisure tourism throughout the pandemic with omni-channel marketing efforts. These included Philly Live Weekends, a collaboration with NBC Philadelphia; Love + Grit, a Philly podcast focused on telling authentic and diverse Philadelphia stories; a black- and brown-owned business initiative that culminated in City Council declaring each Friday in December “Shop Black Business Friday;” and marketing campaigns ranging from Our Turn to Tourist, which drove regional spending at the height of the lockdown, to Pack Light. Plan Big. For Philly., which promoted visitation as the city and region reopened.
“Jeff was a beloved family member, partner and friend, as well as a passionate leader, avid traveler, celebrated author, teacher, mentor and role model,” said Manny Stamatakis, chairman of the board of VISIT PHILADELPHIA, in a statement. “His fun spirit and strong sense of self were with him until the end.”
Guaracino began his marketing career at KYW-TV and CBS Radio and then worked as director of communications for The Franklin Institute.
Before taking the helm of Philly’s official tourism marketing agency, he served as CEO of Wawa Welcome America, a nonprofit organization that produces Philly’s Juneteenth and Fourth of July festivals, and prior to that, as executive director of the Atlantic City Alliance.
Boasting a 20-year track record of success in tourism and organizational management, Guaracino sat on the board of directors for a host of leading national and local organizations, including the U.S. Travel Association; Global Philadelphia Association; Independence Visitor Center Corporation; Philadelphia International Airport; Welcome America, Inc.; Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau; Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund; and Temple University STHM Board of Visitors.
In 2020, he was named vice chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s Regional Tourism, Arts and Cultural Recovery committee.
A leader in the LGBTQ community, Guaracino somehow found time in his busy schedule to author two books about gay and lesbian travel marketing: 2007’s Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide to Marketing and 2017’s Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality: A Guide for Business Practice.
Additionally, he penned a travel column for the Philadelphia Gay News and helped found the Philadelphia chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
“The VISIT PHILADELPHIA team is committed to carrying on the work that meant so much to Jeff—promoting the Philadelphia region as a must-visit travel destination,” Stamatakis added.
An interim successor has not yet been named.