Tell us a bit about how you got started in the tourism industry.
In 1989 I worked as an entertainer and eventually a cruise director for Carnival Cruise Lines. I loved my time on the ships and it really gave me a lot of insight into how the tourism industry works. I spent over 5 years on ships and wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
What is your current job and what are your primary responsibilities?
I am director of travel industry sales and marketing with Earl Enterprises, owners of Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, Earl of Sandwich and Planet Dailies restaurants. I am based in New York City at the Planet Hollywood and Buca di Beppo location in Times Square. I manage national travel industry accounts for the north east coast. I attend trade shows selling our brand nationally to top tour operators. I work in the NYC market to create partnerships with top attractions, Broadway and other theatrical productions and make sure as many people as possible experience the fun and excellent food we offer.
What are some of the changes you have seen since you began your career?
Packaged travel has changed quite a bit. There was a time when most operators dealt with pre-formed* groups almost exclusively. Now many operators and coach companies are more flexible with their passengers’ travel plans and we are constantly adapting to make sure we are in front of mind for those travelers.
* Pre-formed groups are ones made up of people who belong to a club, association, or other pre-existing organization. They communicate regularly with their members and schedule fairly regular events that they attend together
What tourism trends are you seeing that will impact your job and how you work in the next 2 years?
There are so many apps where people can book travel, attractions and restaurants. Finding ways to remain a part of that wave are super important to the tourism industry, especially in a major city like New York.
It’s vacation time – where do you go?
One of two places; We love going to vineyards, most likely either in the Finger Lakes or the North Fork of Long Island or to the beach. We love the beaches of North Carolina!
What is your favorite app and tell us a bit about it.
Well, this may seem a bit strange, but as an NYC commuter, the NYC Bus Tracker app is a life saver. It lets you know where in the route your city bus is and how many stops away. Really helps when planning your daily commute. Not very exciting, I know!
What is your favorite tradeshow and why?
SYTA – Student and Youth Travel Association Annual Conference. Student travel is so important to form well rounded individuals. Taking school trips when I was a student helped make me the person I am today. To be involved with so many people who have the common goal to provide safe, quality travel for these groups of young people is just amazing. I have life-long friends that I met at my very first SYTA conference so MANY years ago.
What advice do you have for someone just getting started in the tourism industry?
Be a sponge. Learn everything you can at your job. Soak it in and be great at it. Learn the ins and outs of the industry and make sure to learn from those who have spent a lifetime in this industry. Be passionate about what you do. Take advantage of any and all networking opportunities and put yourself out there; meet people, introduce yourself. If you have business cards, ALWAYS have them with you. Sometimes you can build business just by striking up a conversation with someone at the grocery store or tasting wine at a vineyard!
(This interview was conducted by Sally Berry, tourism sales and marketing manager at the Corning Museum of Glass, and was first featured on her excellent blog www.theattractionscoach.com.)