Roger Dudley, CTA, Senior Tourism Sales Manager at Experience Columbus, was recently named Ohio Travel Association's Emerging Leader. Roger, who has been with Experience Columbus since 2013, shared with Groups Today how he got involved in the group tour industry, and how he's grown his career since graduating from Bowling Green State University in 2006.
How did you get involved in group travel?
It goes back to college—I went to school for tourism, which is kind of rare. I majored in tourism, and worked for Bowling Green CVB in college. I even worked as a step-on guide for a mystery tour while interning with the CVB. After graduation, I worked in a water park hotel, planning children's parties, and then became the group sales representative at the Columbus Zoo.
What about this industry makes it a good fit for you?
I love to travel, personally. My parents loved to travel, so we took a lot of trips—road trips, mainly. I developed that passion early on. I love Columbus, and it's great to see people get excited about your city. It's rewarding to be behind the scenes, and create those opportunities.
You're known for being really involved in this industry. Why is that important to you?
It's my personality and nature—I've never been one to sit around. I've always been involved in organizations. In school, I was in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and I'm not even a farmer. It's always been my nature to be involved. I asked to go to my first Ohio Travel Association (OTA) conference when I was at the Columbus Zoo, and I enjoyed it. I got involved, and have been on the board for two terms.
Who have been your role models, as you've built your career?
Pete Fingerhut, director of marketing at the Columbus Zoo—he's very knowledgeable. Working for him and with him was awesome! Also, Kari Kauffman, my current boss, who was recognized by the Association (OTA) with a lifetime achievement award.
How do you handle the challenges of the industry?
To keep up with changes, you always have to be flexible. Businesses change their offerings, cities change regulations, et cetera. Keep your partners close—communicate with them, maintain friendships. We work closely with our members, having meetings out in the field, visiting attractions, so that we know as much as we can about what we're promoting.
What's new with Experience Columbus?
We're looking forward to rolling out some new offerings at ABA this year. We're excited about the Ale Trail Group Tours, which will include four breweries to tour, and for Columbus Oktoberfest, held at the Ohio Expo Center; we're working with them to do a bus package. Columbus Oktoberfest is put on and hosted by Schmidt's restaurant, and it's going to be great working with them!
Written by Jennifer Reynolds, contributing writer for Groups Today magazine.