Dave Gerdes spent nearly 40 years in sales and marketing for major hotel firms like Marriott, Hilton International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Omni before coming back to Happy Valley to serve as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. He says that his career happened because of a road trip detour to visit an old roommate.
“I did not study Hotel Management while I was at Penn State,” he said. “I was a Criminal Justice major with aspirations of law school, but took a break after undergrad studies and traveled to the west coast for three months, after working to save the money to travel. On the way back, I stopped in to see an old roommate who was working with Marriott in Atlanta … and the rest is history.”
Gerdes started out as a bellman at a nearby hotel. Within a couple of years, he was climbing the hospitality ladder as a sales professional reaching director of sales within 3 yrs. He says that the secret was to “work hard, take calculated career chances when you are young, enjoy where you are at, and always keep moving forward.”
His numerous roles in Hospitality Sales & Marketing have taken him all over the country, from Georgia to Massachusetts, Florida to California.
“Hospitality is a people business, if you can’t work with people and enjoy it, get off the path. But if you do enjoy it, you will write your own ticket for success. Opportunities abound if you approach the industry with energy and enthusiasm.”
- Dave Gerdes
“Hospitality is a people business,” he said. “If you can’t work with people and enjoy it, get off the path. But if you do enjoy it, you will write your own ticket for success. Opportunities abound if you approach the industry with energy and enthusiasm.”
In 2019, he came back to Happy Valley to join The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. “I oversee the region's sales and marketing efforts in attracting more visitors who stay, play, eat, explore, and contribute greatly to the further development of tourism in Centre County,” he said.
He says that it’s an easy location to promote. “There are so many open spaces and places to decompress,” he said. “It’s so affordable, with easy access, and numerous accommodations. There is so much history here and many attractions, sporting events, festivals, and special events all throughout the year. This diversity makes it such a great place to visit because so many people — myself included — have a very emotional connection to Happy Valley.”
Gerdes says that he chose a path that allowed him to meet many different people, with many different lifestyles, in so many different locations around the country and world. “It’s been so exciting, frustrating, rewarding, draining, challenging and enjoyable. I wouldn’t change a thing. Why wouldn’t anyone who enjoys travel want to get involved? In this business, the world is your oyster.”