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2024 Next Gen: Jessica Flores

2024 Next Gen: Jessica Flores

Jessica Flores is one of the 2024 Next Gens, as nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry with her fresh, progressive perspective.

Jessica Flores: Chief Experience Officer, Tourism Cares

With a career focused on sustainable travel, Jessica Flores has worked with Tourism Cares for more than 15 years, helping to successfully lead initiatives to create positive impacts in the industry, with an emphasis on community tourism development, destination stewardship and natural resource conservation.

"It really was Tourism Cares that drew me to travel!" Flores said, who applied for the job on a whim, being a very recent graduate of college with a degree in communications. "I was unsure about my place in the world and finding travel happened quite frankly by accident. But I knew early on that this industry is the place I was meant to be. We are in the business of helping people cross checkmarks off their bucket lists, and that is an incredible job to have."

Flores enjoys getting to work on the side of the industry that's helping travel companies ensure those checkmarks are done in a meaningful and sustainable way, and the communities they visit are benefitting.

"This industry has given me the opportunity to build relationships with people all over the world; it's what has kept me in this business for so long!" Flores explained, noting that what intrigues her most about the industry is its deeply relationship-centric nature. "It transcends the typical dynamics of business competition; instead, it revolves around truly understanding and building relationships with the people you work with. And beyond that, witnessing the industry evolve from one characterized by intense competition to a collaborative environment has been remarkable."

Flores feels that now, more than ever, there's a collective desire for everyone to thrive and excel, which has fostered an atmosphere of shared success and excellence. Being a part of Tourism Cares for more than a decade, Flores says, has allowed her to see so much and be a part of so many incredible programs and projects.

When it comes to her favorite team accomplishment, Flores points back to the time they spent in Jordan.

"It was a turning point for us as an organization. It stretched our capacity in a way it hadn't before because we were trying to build a program that ensured there was a lasting impact for the communities we worked with," Flores recalled. "I remember sitting at Wadi Rum with our team, with all the event attendees, and just feeling a tremendous amount of pride for what we had done there and for the path it was putting us on. We were on our way to changing the world through travel."

Personally, Flores is proud to have led the Tourism Cares team through a rebrand—something she says was a professional learning journey.

"When we got to the end of the process, we had a new logo and a new way to tell our story," Flores said. "It felt like an exciting new chapter of an organization with a long legacy, and I felt really accomplished to have gotten us there and for it to be so well received by our community. It was a great moment!"

Flores' passion for travel and opportunity to surround herself with changemakers throughout her career has made Flores an advocate for ethical and transformative travel experiences, with the goal of shaping tourism for the better.

"My biggest goal for the future is for the industry to put me out of a job," she said. "That might make many scratch their heads, but it would ultimately mean our mission was realized. I am hoping for a transformative shift in travel and tourism, where my position at Tourism Cares becomes unnecessary because the industry has achieved genuine sustainability."

According to Flores, that would mean that collectively the industry is creating meaningful tourism product, being intentional about diversity and inclusion, and taking care of the communities where travelers venture.

"I see our industry becoming a trailblazer, fostering innovation and assuming a global leadership role in addressing the climate crisis," Flores said. "If travel and tourism companies large and small jump on board, Tourism Cares will succeed in propelling the industry toward this ambitious objective and our mission will have been achieved. That is a lofty goal, but my biggest and the one I am shooting for!"

Jessica Flores is one of the 2024 Next Gens, as nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry with her fresh, progressive perspective. Click here to see the January/February feature.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.


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