Joe D'Alessandro '78 (Italian)

Selling San Francisco

Joe D'Alessandro

Tempting travelers to leave their hearts in San Francisco wasn’t always on Joe D’Alessandro’s job itinerary. No disrespect to Tony Bennett . . .

 D’Alessandro’s role as president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association is his latest stop as tour guide to some of the top travel towns in the world. But it wasn’t a planned trek.

“I didn’t think I was going to go into travel and tourism,” D’Alessandro says. “I was just open to let things happen and pursue what interested me most.”

The former State Travel Director of the Year remembers the special major—and some special mentors—at Sac State that sent him on a trajectory from passion to profession.

“I created my own special major that involved taking classes in Europe,” D’Alessandro says.

His course of study, “European civilizations,” combined history, philosophy, art and foreign language with time at Italy’s University of Florence.

Sac State Italian professors Rosabianca LoVerso and Mario Pietralunga gave D’Alessandro the encouragement to explore the new educational territories and elevate his worldview. It was LoVerso who helped form his personal curriculum.

“I owe a lot to her because of her willingness to be creative and flexible,” he says. “That’s the kind of philosophy I take to my staff.”

Today, D’Alessandro taps those innovative ideals in advancing San Francisco Travel.

“I instituted a new program here called the Tourism Improvement District that established a revenue stream independent of city government that provides stable growth opportunities for us,” he says.

The program has enabled San Francisco Travel to more than double its budget in five years to $26 million, and expand sales offices to Washington, D.C. and Chicago, plus more than a dozen additional offices around the world. He also spearheaded the organization’s refresh at its centennial year, reinventing everything from its name to its business plan.

“Tourism is San Francisco’s leading industry, so our involvement is critical for the whole region’s economic success,” he says.

The city draws more than 16 million visitors each year.

Before his position in San Francisco, D’Alessandro spent 10 years as CEO of the Portland, Ore. visitors association where he rebranded the city, embracing its regional quirks as well as the forward-thinking assets that characterize the city today. He began his career at a Sacramento travel agency specializing in outbound trips to Europe.

D’Alessandro credits Sac State with giving students the tools to find their own career paths.

“The years you’re at the University broaden your mind and your perspective,” he says. “Students should really maximize that and pursue their dreams.”

This article was originally published in the Spring 2012 edition of Sac State Magazine.