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Tourism

Explore Whitefish Hires New Director

Julie Mullins takes the helm at the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she pledged to work with business leaders and city officials to promote shoulder seasons and sustainable tourism

By Maggie Dresser
Julie Mullins, Executive Director of Explore Whitefish. Courtesy photo

After a months-long search, board members at the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, also known as Explore Whitefish, announced April 3 that Julie Mullins will take over as the new executive director of the nonprofit tourism organization.

Mullins replaces Dylan Boyle, who led the bureau for nine years and helped promote the shoulder seasons while creating a legacy of sustainable tourism in the region.

“Julie not only possesses a wealth of industry knowledge to help our businesses achieve long-term economic sustainability, but she also brings a passion for destination stewardship and protecting the livability of our community,” said Mariah Joos, chair of the Explore Whitefish board of directors.

Mullins has worked in the tourism industry for more than two decades – leading teams and managing board and committee priorities. She worked at convention and visitor’s bureau Choose Chicago, and she launched a destination consulting business across multiple tourism industries in 2021, shortly after moving to Whitefish.

At her consulting firm, she primarily worked with a tourism bureau in Miami and although the Florida city contrasts with Whitefish in landscape and demographics, she said the two regions share similarities in the makeup of their busy seasons.

“You really have to be very strategic in the way you target your messaging and tell your story,” Mullins said. “In Miami, they definitely do not need business in that first quarter. With Explore Whitefish, our community is thriving three months out of the year but there is room to grow in the cold seasons.”

During her time with Choose Chicago, Mullins said working in a hyper-political city sharpened skills that will help her bridge gaps in Whitefish between part-time residents and full-time residents.

“You have to find that balance,” Mullins said. “Working with business and government leaders to make sure you’re giving everybody an opportunity speak and come up with a plan that works for the community at large.”

In her first few months in her new role, Mullins said she has a short-term goal of listening to community members and to continue the work of her predecessor, Dylan Boyle.

“Dylan Boyle left me in a great position – he was really good at what he did,” Mullins said. “I want to understand this community better, and my immediate goal is to listen and not make any changes.”

Boyle spent his nine years at Explore Whitefish navigating economic downturns and, more recently, a pandemic that triggered unpredictable record tourism numbers.

In 2020, Boyle worked with the city of Whitefish to launch the Sustainable Tourism Management Plan Committee, which led to the “Friends of the Fish” campaign and partnerships with nonprofits like Housing Whitefish and other organizations.

Boyle also worked to promote Whitefish’s shoulder seasons, collaborating heavily with Whitefish Mountain Resort, and he developed media collaborations with Teton Gravity Research, the Ski Journal and Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit advocating for climate solutions for winter-dependent industries.

Mullins says she hopes to continue Boyle’s work while maintaining Whitefish’s character.

“I am absolutely thrilled to live in such a special place,” Mullins said. “This is a destination that has a soul and it’s a destination that truly has character. We have to continue being one of the last remaining great mountain towns in the West.”

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