Emergency Response

Director of Group Sales Steps Up for Emergency Response

On December 30, 2021, the Marshall Fire spread through neighborhoods on the west side of the Denver-Boulder metro area. Boulder CVB Director of Group Sales, Angela “Fig” Wirkler, shares the important role DMOs have in emergency response and how she activated her network of partners to help provide resources.  

GROWTH Community Contributor

Angela “Fig” Wirkler

There is this ongoing joke within the destination marketing industry that even those closest to us (such as our parents or extended family) don’t really understand what we do. Even after my seven years working for the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), I can attest that this is true. To them, I “sell” a city, but it’s much more than that. There’s a team of people behind most great destinations. A team of people managing the brand, promoting small businesses, and helping to generate a greater diversity of economic impact – all while being intentional stewards of our land and the residents that live here. All of our collective daily efforts have an impact on the communities we call home. In the event of a natural disaster or tragic event, we’re left wondering how we can help support a community we care so deeply about. What do people need right now? How do I stay out of the way and help at the same time?

Like many of us, I could see the flames of the Marshall Fire from my house, watching the terror unfold on the news and the smoke billow miles away out the window. As I thought about my own family and the families of so many who just lost their homes, I realized there was an opportunity to activate my professional network and local resources quickly to help provide short-term housing/hoteling options for those impacted directly by the Marshall Fire. Identifying resources and the network of people that can help in a time like this is so important. Professionally, I’ve had the opportunity to establish a great network of industry colleagues and friends. As the Director of Group Sales, I source hotels to find lodging and meeting space for companies and groups looking to host meetings and/or conferences in Boulder on a daily basis. Part of my close network of people are the Boulder hotel partners. Through industry events, I’ve come to know the surrounding destinations closely as well.

At the Boulder CVB, we have a platform, a voice, and access to resources within the community. With the help of Boulder Area Rental Housing Association and Boulder Hotel Motel Association, we contacted the hotels and started to put together a list of accommodations for fire evacuees. Creating a lodging page with detailed information on our website would allow us to hopefully distribute this information quickly and efficiently.

One challenge that came up quickly was that our hotels in Boulder filled up fast. Going back to the core group of local leaders, we knew that we needed to expand our efforts. We reached out to our DMO partners in the surrounding cities and asked if they would reach out to their hotel partners as well. We were greeted with an overwhelming response of support, culling together a list of over 100 hotel partners in Boulder, Denver, Loveland, Aurora, Estes Park and Ft Collins who were able to help those impacted by the fire.

As we navigate the challenges of a changing world together, I believe the work we do daily in the destination marketing industry has value and (most importantly) is felt in the community, and that reassurance is worth more than any amount of recognition, or even understanding of what we do (by close family or otherwise!). The front-range DMO community is a tight-knit industry, and we show up every day to support our individual communities. In this case, the outpouring of support and response by the other DMO’s to help support the Boulder County community was incredibly heart-warming. I’ve learned that having an emergency action plan is essential, but what you can never anticipate is the amount of support in these situations. It’s absolutely humbling, but above all, I’m hopeful that this comparably small effort was able to help those who lost their homes.

Lessons learned? Have an emergency plan, be prepared to activate your network, and never underestimate the collective power of people.


Angela “Fig” Wirkler is the Director of Group Sales for the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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