Black Meetings and Tourism

November/December 2021

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B M & T ••• November/December 2021 ••• 18 Shanitra Finley is right w h e r e she is supposed to be doing exactly what she is supposed to do. For 23 years, Finley has worked at Mississippi's Yazoo County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), seven of them as its executive director. She started off as an assis- tant, but once she took the reigns in 2014, Finley, a bold leader, wasn't afraid to shake things up. She came in with a daring plan to change the county's branding by adding a dash of color. Her key advantage and plan, she says, was and is to "think like a tourist." "What would I enjoy if I went some- where," she said. "I like to think things through. I like to think in color." It didn't take long to figure out why Finley was tapped to take on the leadership role. She's one of the county's biggest cheerleaders and truly loves and enjoys her job. Yazoo County, Mississippi, is described as Colorful, Authentic, and as Unique as You, and as a great place to visit year-round for anyone who enjoys an off-the-beaten- path adventure. Since she became executive director, Yazoo County CVB has impressively been awarded CVB of the Year, Delta's Best Tourism, received a Research-in-Action Award from MS Development Authority, and a Readers' Choice Award from Convention South. To garner those awards, Finley implemented an event sponsorship program. "We also had an internship schol- arship program for high school seniors," said Finley. "We changed our branding and marketing. We got a different look. Now we have colorful buildings, which are authentic and unique. We just wanted a different look. Our main goal is to attract visitors so we can get attention." Branding went from 'Yazoo, Gateway To The Delta, to 'Soak Up Some Yazoo.' Finley came up with – 'Colorful, Authentic Unique Yazoo.' "I wanted it to be colorful," she said. "Colorful means a whole lot and brings its own ener- gy. I love when I get to be creative. I love watching people enjoy and experience some of the programs I had a part in cultivating. I try to be creative whether it's a tour or an event. In the end, I want people to be excited." A stylish woman who wears many professional hats, in her role as executive director, Finley's days are full. "I still do the same things I did as an assistant," she said. "Unfortunately, I had to furlough part-time workers. I do normal stuff like budgets, promotions, payroll, some developing. Unfortunately, our meeting spaces took a hit. SHANITRA FINLEY LEADS THE WAY AT YAZOO COUNTY CVB BY DARLENE DONLOE

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