What implications do you see for your organization resulting from this stage of the coronavirus pandemic and how are you mitigating the potential risks and challenges?
The tourism/hospitality industry has been rebounding well from the early 2020 onset of COVID-19. The CVB has proceeded carefully and strategically through the last two years, working with local partners to ensure that vacationers and meeting attendees felt both safe and welcomed. Due to many factors – including the proactive direction of the Board, which led to measurable success in our sales and marketing efforts — this next fiscal year’s budget will be our highest yet. Though we’re cautiously optimistic that travel will continue to rebound to some extent, we’re also keenly aware of the many factors (gas prices, global conflict, economic downturn, etc.) beginning to adversely affect consumer confidence and travel trends. This promises to be an interesting year, indeed.
What actions have you taken or will take to return to the growth expectations you had as 2019 ended? When will it be achieved?
We’re funded by a “bed tax” called the Convention Development Tax. It’s a 3% tax on overnight accommodations that’s paid by visitors who travel to our destination and stay in hotels, campgrounds, condos, hosted vacation rentals, etc. Our March 2022 bed tax revenues marked a record 13 consecutive months of record-breaking income, so we have already (and thankfully) surpassed our 2019 levels.
An organization’s culture flows from the top down. What leadership skills do you find effective in promoting the agency’s mission and vision to employees, clients and customers?
My background is in communications and that training has been invaluable. My philosophy revolves around strategic positivity – and surrounding myself with the best people possible. The CVB has been strategic in gathering and retaining an exceptionally talented group of bright, creative, and hard-working individuals who make up this “Dream Team” staff. I focus my attention on their strengths and encourage them to find new and creative ways to collaborate – within the organization and throughout the industry. We’ve been fortunate enough to navigate the last two years successfully and have a lot of fun in the process. Our mission is all about positive economic impact, and our collective success benefits our many partners, including accommodations, attractions, meeting planners and other travel professionals. It also benefits our new and returning visitors who are introduced to this destination’s many assets – and most importantly, it benefits our community via increased positive exposure, jobs and spending in our favorite local businesses.
At EVOLVE we have a shared belief that leaders develop their success skills by overcoming the challenges and adversity they face. Do you believe that hypothesis and if so, what adversity have you faced and overcome that helped put you where you are today?
Yes, I do believe that adversity can create a steep learning curve and develop important success skills. The adversity of COVID has helped our team to forge some fresh, new ways of doing business, and the learning process continues. On a personal level, I take a lot of notes as challenges occur. I’ve been fortunate enough to hold a variety of sales, marketing and communications positions, (including at Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona International Speedway, International Speedway Corporation, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, and two previous stints at the CVB) so I’ve worked with some immensely talented and inspiring leaders. I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, and the learning continues today.
What closing comments or counsel would you offer to emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs to continue their path to success?
I learned early on that giving back to the community is a win-win. It’s a great way to expand your circle of connections, and when you find your passion projects, the giving is nothing short of joyful. My advice would be to find the organizations you’re passionate about, then decide what you, personally, are able to give, knowing that the type of gift may change as you progress through life. Can you give of your time? Your talents? Your treasure? The answers will evolve, but the giving remains invaluable in helping this amazing community to thrive.