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Explore Fairbanks Announces CEO Exit Plan

Dec 7, 2020 | News, Tourism

Deb Hickok, current president and CEO of Explore Fairbanks, will be resigning next summer.

Isabel Hickok

Explore Fairbanks President and CEO Deb Hickok has advised the organization’s Board of Directors of her resignation effective June 1, 2021.

Board of Directors Chair Ashley Bradish says that in April 2019, the board approved a Transition Plan for President and CEO. According to Bradish, “Deb’s announcing her exit more than six months in advance will allow ample time for an orderly implementation of that plan and the successful hire of a new CEO.

“Deb has been a major driving force in the visitor industry of the Interior and the entire state of Alaska.Her shoes will be difficult to fill, but Deb has built a tremendous team at Explore Fairbanks and the Board of Directors and I are confident that there is a solid foundation at the organization for the future.” 

Bradish says that the members of the Transition Team will be finalized at the January 20, 2021 board meeting. One of the first tasks for the team will be to develop the timeline for the executive search.

Hickok has served as CEO and has been a resident of Alaska since September 1999. Reflecting on her twenty-one years at Explore Fairbanks, Hickok says, “The strategic successes that we have had during my tenure are solely due to teamwork and collaboration with our stakeholders and the community.”

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Hickok notes some highlights such as the steady growth of winter tourism, dubbed the “opportunity season,” even during the Great Recession until the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. She steered the Explore Fairbanks team in the maturation of the aurora season brand of the Fairbanks region; securing direct international flights and charters through an award-winning program that brought recognition to Fairbanks as the smallest US market with direct connectivity to Europe and Asia; partnering in the design and opening of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in downtown Fairbanks; and hosting the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Conventions and the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting.

With Hickok’s guidance, Explore Fairbanks produced a prize-winning destination video and website. The organization received accreditation through Destinations International and has been certified by Adventure Green Alaska as a sustainable destination, both recognitions as the first for an Alaska-based destination marketing organization.

Throughout her thirty-eight-year tenure in tourism, Hickok has held various leadership roles. She currently serves on two boards of directors: the United States Travel Association based in Washington D.C. and the Alaska Travel Industry Association, which she chaired in 2011. She is the 2018 recipient of the ATIA Denali Award, which is annually presented to “a living individual for his or her outstanding leadership, professional excellence, and personal contribution to the Alaska travel industry.”

In noting her plans for the future, Hickok says, “After decades of a very structured regimen anchored by more than full-time jobs and other responsibilities, I am ready to pursue a more flexible lifestyle. Being a little terrified and a lot excited, I look forward to contractual and freelance work while discovering hobbies and freeing up time to relax more with family and friends.” She clarified semantics in that she is not retiring but rather resigning from Explore Fairbanks to pursue the next chapter of opportunities.

Prior to moving to Alaska, Hickok worked as a professional in the field of destination marketing and management in Pennsylvania for seventeen years, beginning in 1982 in the Pocono resort region followed by stints in the state and Bucks County tourism offices and as the principle in a marketing firm specializing in the hospitality industry.

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