Bringing People Together
Jane Tougouma | Group Tour Sales Manager, Destination Cleveland
A "boomerang," Jane Tougouma returned to Cleveland from Los Angeles and found love in more ways than one. "Traveling is my passion and planning tours for others is my pleasure, especially sharing the unexpected gem that is Cleveland." She joined Destination Cleveland in 2010, serves on the ABA Marketplace Advisory Committee and is CVB co-chair liaison of the ABA 2017 Host Advisory Committee. Her personal travels have included visits to West Africa, Republic of Georgia, Japan and Iceland.
Jane was working for House of Blues, primarily a concert venue and restaurant, when as a member of the local CVB she got to know some of the CVB staff and learn what the organization does. The group sales position became available at the CVB, and at first she didn't think she could do sales. "Not my thing!" As she learned more about what the job entailed, she took a leap of faith that it would be worth leaving the music business for two of her other passions—nonprofit and travel.
"I love to travel, plan and bring people together. I used to play 'tour guide' to friends and family who would visit me when I lived in Los Angeles, and didn't realize until I moved back to Cleveland that I could do something similar for a living! I love to educate people—locals and tourists—on the numerous surprising activities Cleveland offers. And I am thankful for the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and experience new destinations as I travel to various conferences, et cetera."
Jane is intrigued by the massive amount of buses on the road throughout the year. "It is fascinating and wonderful to see so many tour companies working with an extraordinary amount of destinations, including the DMOs, hotels, attractions, festivals and restaurants to make just one tour go.
"We often take it for granted, but it is admirable to make a trip a success and to see the relationships the tour operators must have with their guests and destination representatives."
And it's essentially one big family, whether you've met in person or not. "We all know traveling opens a world of opportunity for both the travelers and the planners. The possibilities are endless ... to discover a little small town in the USA or a big town in Africa. Group travel literally takes people around the world and inevitably provides new and different perspectives—that excites me."
Jane's favorite accomplishment so far, besides a few personal milestones, is probably pursuing a career of passion—from her early days of working in a bookstore, to following her desire to work in the music business in Los Angeles, to returning home to continue working in music for some time before transitioning into her next loves: the nonprofit world and the tourism business, together.
She also feels fortunate that her husband and she have continued to travel the world, with two young children in tow.
"Many people think you have to stop traveling when you have children—and I'm not one of them."
Jane Tougouma is one of the 2016 Top 10 Next Gens, as nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry with her creative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. Click here to see the January/February magazine.
Know a group travel professional making an impact on the industry with a fresh, progressive perspective? Nominate him or her for 2017's Top 10 Next Gen here.