Black Meetings and Tourism

September / October 2021

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Cleo Battle took on a multipronged mission on July 1, 2021, when he started his job as President/CEO of Louisville Tourism. Among his top goals are implementing a strategy to attract more visitors to the city as it continues to cope with the impact of the pandemic, making the local tourism indus- try's economic benefits more inclusive, and building up the area's tourism workforce. Battle says his own hiring philoso- phy and management style are driven by his belief that the people working at Louisville Tourism are his best assets for achieving those goals. "Someone told me, and I've never forgotten it: If you're the smartest person in the room, you're probably in the wrong room," says Battle, who, after 35 years in the hospital- ity industry, is now the first African-American to head Louisville's top tourism agency. "I love that saying, and I've always tried to make sure that the people I hire are quality professionals who, while I may be the boss, can teach me something." The Denver native graduated from Metropolitan State University in his hometown with a bachelor's degree in hotel/restaurant management and later earned an MBA from Averett University in Danville, Virginia. He went to Metropolitan State on a track and field scholarship, dream- ing of competing in the Olympics someday and undecided on his major. When a hamstring injury in his third year of col- lege put his athletic career in jeopardy, he was forced to think more seriously about his academic path. He followed a uni- versity counselor's suggestion to sign up for the newly launched program in hotel and restaurant management. He worked at a hotel during his studies and entered a hotel man- agement training program after graduating. Battle came to Louisville Tourism in 2013 as Executive Vice President. Before that, he spent 12 years as Vice President of Sales & Services of the Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau in Richmond, Virginia. He had previously been Director of Sales and Sales Manager at the Richmond bureau. Today, his involvement in industry organizations includes Destinations International, where he is a former foundation chair and committee leader, and current committee member- ships with the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and the Professional Conference Management Association. He's also on the board of directors of Meeting Planners International and a member of the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) Commission of the Events Industry Council. "A lot of that work has been about helping the industry B M & T ••• September/October 2021 ••• 24 BY SONYA STINSON "When we were at the heart of the pandemic we were hearing about the devastation to the tourism industry, so there are a lot of folks who are gun shy about going into the industry," A CONVERSATION WITH C L E O B AT T L E

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