Black Meetings and Tourism

July / August 2021

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 31 of 56

One of Rickey Thigpen's first orders of busi- ness when he became president and CEO of Visit Jackson in February of 2019 was to put together a coalition of community leaders to boost the city as a travel destination. "I'm a bridge builder," says Thigpen, who views stakeholder engagement as a primary responsibility of his job. "That's a natural gift. We had factions that were not working together, and I saw all of those factions as resources." Thigpen has spent more than 33 years in the industry, all of them at Visit Jackson, where he landed his first job as a computer programmer — the organiza- tion's first IT hire — after earning a com- puter science degree from Mississippi Valley State University In 1987. On the way to becoming president and CEO, he was database manager, administrative manager, administrative director, execu- tive vice president, and interim president. Today, he's active in several industry organizations, including the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors, Destination International, the Mississippi Tourism Association Board of Directors, the Mississippi Tourism Political Action Committee, and the Downtown Jackson Partners Advisory Board. He was just shy of a year into his post as president/CEO when the U.S. saw its first diagnosis of COVID-19, and with the ensuing pandemic, destination marketing in Jackson — or anywhere else, for that matter — would never be the same. Now, the coalition Thigpen built is helping to steer the local tourism and meetings industry through the pandemic and beyond. "It will be a springboard moving for- ward, working with organizations that I had a strong connection with, such as the Port Authority, Downtown Development, and Parks and Recreation," Thigpen says. "We meet at least once a month to share our strategies to make the destina- tion stronger." The Mississippi legislature allocated $13.5 million in federal CARES Act fund- ing to destination marketing throughout the state, and Thigpen says Visit Jackson used its share of the money to continue advertising aggressively during the lock- down. B M & T ••• July/August 2021 ••• 31 BY SONYA STINSON A C O N V E R S A T I O N W I T H R I C K E Y T H I G P R N , PRESIDENT/CEO OF VISIT JACKSON

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Black Meetings and Tourism - July / August 2021