Name: Stefan Cattarin
Title: Meeting and Convention Sales Manager
Organization: Visit Billings
Location: Billings, Montana
Birthplace: Paradise, California
Education: Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME)
• Children’s pastor (2002-2010)
• Director of Sales, Hilton Garden Inn Billings (2010-2015)
• Meeting and Convention Sales Manager, Visit Billings (2015-present)
Born in California and raised near Seattle, Stefan Cattarin never pictured himself living in small-town Montana. So when he proposed to his wife, a Billings native, he said there would have to be a clause in their marriage contract that they would never have to live there.
“But like any good Montana wife, she brought her guy home,” Cattarin said jokingly. While he makes light of his initial reluctance to live in Montana, the couple decided to move there for the quality of life Billings offers, from affordability and access to outdoor recreation to community safety and its being a great place to raise their four children.
When Cattarin and his family decided to relocate, his background wasn’t in tourism at all. He was a children’s ministry pastor at a nondenominational megachurch that held lots of events in the Seattle area. He went through a culinary arts program and worked in both front- and back-of-the-house positions.
“Moving to Billings without a job lined up was a leap of faith,” he said. “I was able to walk through that door and see what was waiting on the other side.”
Cattarin drew on his patchwork of experiences to land a position in the sales department of the Hilton Garden Inn, which, as it turned out, gave him a lot more than just sales experience. Within that space, Cattarin brought his food-and-beverage knowledge and natural gift for working with people to the meetings and events space, providing high-quality experiences to guests. His team there had what Cattarin described as “several unexpected successes” that elevated them to be one of the top-ranked events hotels in the country.
A new door opened when he found his position at the Billings Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We’re in an era where every destination has the ability to have leverage in the market and draw people in,” he said. “We’re selling an unfamiliar destination to grow tourism to our city and our state.”
He said when he’s talking to people considering holding a conference or other event in Billings, he’s not afraid to call out the elephant in the room: that Billings is smaller than some of the other cities event planners might be considering.
“I’ve been asked if we still use a horse-and-buggy to get around and if we have Wi-Fi,” said Cattarin. “In fact, we have first-rate amenities here and unique adventure aspects that you can’t get in a big-box conference center.”
In addition to his job at the CVB and being dad to four, he serves on the advisory board for the MetraPark County Governed Event Expo and continues to be active in the children’s, men’s and marriage ministries at his church.
“Billings is learning to tell its story — and it’s just as viable and desirable as any of the other cities in the market,” Cattarin said. “I love the state. It’s a remarkable place to visit and live, and I want to be as dynamic and impactful to the community as I can.”
Tips from Stefan Cattarin
• Montana is easier to get to than you think and has more to offer than you’d expect.
• Let CVBs help you by connecting you with the best your city has to offer.
• A simple smile or an encouraging word is more than enough to make a difference in the world today.