A 22-year veteran of the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau, Maura Gast was named its executive director in October 2003. A leading destination for business travel, Irving welcomed 2.96 million visitors in 2012, who in turn invested $1.4 billion in this town of 215,000, which is also home to the world headquarters of ExxonMobil, Zale Jewelers, Flowserve and Fluor, and serves as a major national or regional headquarters for Blackberry, Kimberly Clark, NEC, Nokia, and many other prominent corporate brands. Most recently,she oversaw the on-time and under-budget delivery of the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas, which has hosted more than 500 events since its opening in January 2011.
Recognized as an industry expert on technology and marketing issues, and a trailblazer on reinforcing tourism as a vital component of a community’s economic development strategy, Gast recently completed her term as the chair of Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), the third female chair in the organization’s history. She chaired DMAI’s Futures Study, served on the inaugural Destination Marketing Accreditation Program board and is co-chairing its Strategic Technology Committee. She has developed curriculum for the association’s Program in Destination Management and leads several courses at its conferences and other industry forums. She has earned the industry’s highest educational certification, Fellow Certified Destination Management Executive (FCDME). She is currently serving on the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Leadership Council, on ASAE's Ethics Committee and on the Board of Directors for TSAE.
In addition to membership in the industry’s various trade associations, Maura is also a member of the Urban Land Institute, Dallas Advertising League and the International Council of Shopping Centers. In her spare time in Irving, she serves on the Boards of Directors for the La Cima Club, Irving Salvation Army and Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.
Before joining the hospitality industry, Gast spent time in the retail and newspaper worlds, in a variety of sales, marketing and event management roles. In an unusual twist, she also spent several years sidelining as a member of an improv troupe, and hosting corporate karaoke events. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, and spent most of her childhood years in San Angelo, Texas. An Air Force “brat,” Maura’s family spent its primary tours of duty in the Philippines and Taiwan.