Leah Chandler, nominated as one of the 2017 Top 10 Next Gens by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry, didn't get her start in group travel. Today, she serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Branson CVB—working to promote a destination she loves.
What inspired your passion for travel?
I have loved traveling since I was very young and went on family vacations to Florida. When I was 9 years old, I went on my first cruise with family. I was so overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality of the staff on the ship—the amazing food and the beautiful places we saw. It was all so different from my life in Cross Plains, Indiana. I cried at the airport when we had to go home. I remember thinking, "Why I can't I go somewhere different every day?"
How did you become involved in the group travel industry?
My career history had been mainly with advertising agencies until I began working at the Branson CVB in 2013. I admittedly knew very little about group travel! Lenni Neimeyer, the Branson CVB's Director of Leisure Group Sales and a veteran in this segment of the industry, took me under her wing, answering what seemed like hundreds of questions I had about group travel. I'm so thankful for her knowledge, experience and passion for the group travel industry. I truly learned from the best in the business!
What's your favorite part about your current position?
My favorite part about my current position is promoting a destination I care very deeply for. Branson has become such a special part of my life. I am blessed to work with the most talented and professional DMO team in the industry. I get to sell a destination that I truly believe in and—better yet—I get to actually LIVE here. Every day I wake up grateful to live in a community that is as beautiful as it is caring and kind.
What have you accomplished so far in your career? What's your most prized accomplishment?
My most prized accomplishment is my CDME certification (Certified Destination Management Executive). The courses and requirements to earn this designation from DMAI are rigorous, to say the least. I was proud to complete the requirements for CDME in 2014.
Aside from awards, designations and titles, I am most proud of the amazing team we have built at the Branson CVB. I work alongside an amazing group of humans who love our destination and pour their hearts into making our community successful.
How do you hope to make a difference in the group travel industry? What do you hope to accomplish?
As "Next Gens" we can make an impact in the group travel industry by better understanding the changing dynamics of consumers and their travel habits as related to group travel. In Branson, we are hyper-focused on listening to consumers and monitoring travel trends, in order to adjust for what the future of group travel will look like.
It's no longer about the "good ol' days." It's about, "What's next?"
Edited by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.