Visit San Antonio’s CEO and president of nearly a decade, Casandra Matej, is resigning at the end of January.

Matej has accepted a similar position in Orlando, one of the country’s top travel destinations with a tourism industry valued at $75.2 billion in 2018.

Visit San Antonio’s executive committee will seek a permanent replacement for Matej in the coming months. Her resignation is effective Jan. 26.

Matej’s position garnered $415,200 in base and incentive compensation, as well as bonuses, according to Visit San Antonio’s 2019 tax forms, the latest available. Visit Orlando, where Matej will also be CEO, is reported to be paying her an annual salary of $395,000, according to the Orlando Sentinel, but it was unclear if that amount reflects only her base pay.

Matej joined the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, as the city’s tourism office was called then, in 2011. Since then, the organization says visitation has grown by more than a third, reaching 41 million visitors in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic battered the tourism industry. Visit San Antonio’s budget also has grown by nearly 40 percent.

Matej oversaw the organization’s transition in 2016 from a city department to a private nonprofit, when it rebranded as Visit San Antonio.

The same year, Matej helped lead a $325 million effort to modernize and expand the Henry B. González Convention Center. The project paved the way for large tourism events, such as the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

Under her leadership, the organization played a strong role in the designation of the city’s Spanish colonial missions as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.

Matej has given Visit San Antonio a national profile among tourism groups, serving on the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association. She was also named to the list of Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry by Meetings & Convention Magazine.

“Replacing someone of Casandra’s caliber will be difficult,” Visit San Antonio board Chairman Jeffrey Arndt said in the press release. “Under her watch, San Antonio has enjoyed significant moments and growth that will endure as a legacy to her impact.”

Arndt, who is also the leader of VIA Metropolitan Transit, said Visit San Antonio is “well-positioned” to revitalize tourism after a difficult year.

The industry is the third largest in the city, but suffered tremendous losses after many of the city’s scheduled conventions were canceled or postponed amid the pandemic.

“Recovery from COVID will be a long, volatile process,” Matej told City Council this month.

Serving as interim director will be Dave Krupinski, the organization’s current chief operating officer. Krupinski has been with Visit San Antonio since 2013, and previously served in a leadership role at Dallas’ tourism bureau.

In Orlando, Matej’s new employer issued a statement praising her arrival.

“She is known in the industry as a strategic leader with an ability to collaborate throughout the region, and her energy, vision and industry experience will be especially critical as our destination moves to recover from this challenging time,” said Brian Comes, chairman of the board for Visit Orlando, in the press release.

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham writes about business and technology. Contact him at waylon@sareport.org.