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Everyone has that one person in their circle; that trusted individual you can go to for informed guidance, sage advice, valuable experience and more. That person who never fails to bring fresh ideas to the table and challenges what has always been in order to build something better.

In the group travel industry, these are the leaders who have risen to the surface as folks who are always willing to try new things, bolster innovation within the industry, drive others in a positive direction, and are recognizable among group travel professionals as someone who can be relied upon.

We asked our readers to share who among their industry peers should be recognized for their efforts in this realm. Those who were selected to be among the 2022 Influencers of Group Travel were featured in a recent issue of Groups Today. Keep reading to get to know them!

 


 

Melea Hames
Social Media Manager | Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association

A social media manager in the tourism industry for 12 years at Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA), Melea Hames uses social media to build connections and engage travelers and those in the industry. She brings fresh ideas to the forefront through the creation of compelling social content and blog posts, in addition to coordinating the North Alabama Ambassador Program and speaking at various events about social media.

Hames recently became the host of AMLA's new podcast, "Unexpected Adventures in North Alabama," which highlights all the places in the region people might not know about yet. During the early days of the pandemic, Hames also created a series of "When Business Returns to Usual" blog posts focused on the different areas in the northern Alabama region.

"I feel that these blogs resonated with people because it gave them something to look forward to," Hames said.

Just last year, Hames created her very own social media marketing agency with a friend called M and M Social. She loves to write, travel, walk in the park (she walked over 600 miles in 2020), go to Auburn games and read books about WWII.

With a background in education, Hames thinks it's important to share what you're doing in your businesses with your friends and colleagues.

"On our business pages, we're reaching our visitors and locals, but our friends and colleagues can be a valuable resource for us, as well," Hames said. "And your friends and colleagues are your biggest cheerleaders, so share what you're doing to inspire others in your circle. It's an honor that others in the travel industry look to me for guidance and assurance. The one thing I tried most to focus on during the beginning of the pandemic was hope, because I felt that was what people wanted most of all."

Hames hopes to continue to influence the group travel sphere by providing great social media content—road trips to take, outdoor activities, travel tips, etc.—which can hopefully inspire others.

As the industry moves forward and further into recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hames says education on treating the outdoors with respect is key.

"One issue we had during the beginning of the pandemic was an abundance of newcomers to the outdoors, which created a problem with many of our outdoor locations being 'loved to death,'" Hames said.

She explains how the increased amount of trash left outdoors led the organization to partner with Leave No Trace to help educate those new to the outdoors on the importance of being good stewards of nature.

"I would love to see more of this type of education for our visitors and locals," she said. "Sure, we want people to get outdoors, but we also want everyone doing their part to protect these beautiful outdoor spaces."

To read more about the rest of the 2022 Influencers of Group Travel, click here.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

 

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