Sally Laukitis first started promoting the Holland area in 1992, when she landed a job in sales for Tulip Time, the city’s longtime annual festival celebrating tulips and Dutch heritage.
“It was when Tulip Time and the Holland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau were under one director,” Laukitis recalls.
In 1994, Tulip Time separated from the CVB and that’s when Laukitis became executive director of the CVB. Not only has the structure of the CVB changed tremendously since then, but also so has Holland’s tourism position, thanks in good part to Laukitis.
“When I became director, I was a staff of one and had a budget of $169,000,” the energetic Laukitis says. “We were pretty much promoting Tulip Time and the motor coach industry. Today, we have 10 employees and a $2 million budget.”
It was also in the early 1990s when Holland truly emerged as a year-round destination and host city for meetings and events.
“We finally had an office in place so we could really take a look at what year-round opportunities we had here,” she explains. “I inherited the Christmas Tree Festival, which we turned into the Dutch Winterfest and the Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) parade, and that’s still going today.”
Laukitis, who’s a member of the Michigan Travel Commission, says her favorite part of her job is talking to and helping people when they walk in her door.
“It’s amazing that we had visitors from 47 countries and 50 states last year! And that’s not just during summer months. Many come during the winter. There aren’t many places where you can cross-country ski in the shadows of a huge, 260 year-old, authentic windmill,” she says.
Living just “six minutes” from work, Laukitis enjoys jumping in her “Tulip mobile” (a 2015 GMC Acadia that’s wrapped with Holland-area scenes) and heading to the office.
When not working, the mother of two grown sons likes to head to Tunnel Park beach (“It’s the only concrete tunnel that goes through a sand dune in the state,” she shares) on Lake Michigan. And of course, come May, she relishes the thousands of blooming tulips for which the city is known.
“My favorites are the red ones with the yellow around the tips. They’re classic.”
And so, it seems, is Laukitis.