“How I Got My Start” is a regular segment in which we cull a couple of selections from our interviews with international operators, domestic operators, receptive operators, destinations, hotels and attractions to explore the path that led one to a career in the travel trade industry. One thing we have learned: the road to where they are is almost never the same. In this issue, we feature: Mike Prejean, international services, Louisiana Office of Tourism; and Liz Bittner, executive director, Travel South USA.
Mike Prejean: “In 1981, I had just returned from a two-year tour with Netherlands-based Internationaal Danstheater, and my mentor in tourism, Henri LaFleur, asked me to work with him to develop a Cajun-themed shore tour to sell to the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. He developed a half-day experience in the swamps which included a Cajun cookout, variety show of Louisiana song and dance, and a Baton Rouge city tour. It became Delta Queen’s highest-selling shore tour. It also taught me that the best way to learn about receptive operating is to just do it and service clients correctly for the tour operators who deliver them to you.”
Liz Bittner: “My first job in the hospitality industry was night auditor at a Days Inn in Dayton, Ohio the summer after I graduated from high school. Frankly I wanted the job, so I could spend time at the pool with my friends during the day, because my true goal was to have a great tan when I started college. I was not planning to be in the travel industry, I wanted to be a lawyer. 25+ years later, I navigate state politics, a board of directors and destination marketing at Travel South USA.”