Black Meetings and Tourism

September / October 2022

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B M & T ••• September/October 2022 ••• 17 Association-certified South Fulton Tennis Center. Like other travel destinations, South Fulton is still coping with the impact of Covid-19. But Francois says that ironically, the pandemic created some positive as well as negative effectives. For example, when indoor dining became impos- sible, many local restaurants introduced delivery services, while others invested in food trucks. "For a lot of them, that turned out to be really profitable.," Francois says. For the first couple of months of the pandemic, the South Fulton CVB played a lead role in supporting both area restaurants and first responders. "We bought lunch from different restaurants each day for weeks and fed 200 of our first responders everyday," Francois says. "That was a way to kind of kick them off and give them a boost, because when it first happened, nobody knew what to do." Today there are signs of recovery for South Fulton tourism: Hotel revenue is up again. Corporate travel is returning. Yet in a highly competitive regional and national market, Francois says the bureau and other industry organizations are always being challenged to do more. "We have to come up with innovative things to encourage folks to come to our city," she says. In June 2021, Francois launched the city's premier Restaurant Week, partner- ing with the Bronze Lens Film Festival, an Atlanta celebration of Black cinema. The marketing slogan for that inaugural event was "Savor SOFU." Restaurant takeout customers could present their Savor SOFU Food/Bronze Lens Passports for stamping. At the end of the week, they could enter a drawing to win VIP passes to the film festival. One of the major CVB events in 2022 was National Travel and Tourism Week in May. This time the bureau's promotion partner was local radio station Smooth Jazz 101.1, which hosted a VIP reception with state industry leaders and other stakeholders. The bureau will team up with the radio station again to promote a new event, Monday Jazz Night Series, a series of perform- ances to be held at a local restaurant. As one of fewer than a dozen African-American CVB leaders – and one of just four Black females – Francois acknowledges there have been challenges, but says she takes them in stride. She also says her experience has prepared her well for her current role. "I personally don't let it keep me down or hold me back in any way," says Francois, who notes that her previous jobs as Tourism Director of the Douglasville CVB and Head of the Trinidad and Tobago Convention & Visitors Bureau makes this her third turn as a bureau chief. I've had to fight those battles early on, to be in high positions and be able to commu- nicate and work with all different levels in government. Working with the Canadian Consulate, I actually came through as a diplomat and work my way up, so I've always had to work at high levels as a minority." Outside of work, Francois enjoys travel, home decor and flower gardening, a hobby she took up during the lockdown time of Covid. "I find my peace in gardening," she says. She cites Barcelona as one of her favorite travel destina- tions, for its history and ornate architecture. Her enthusiasm for exploring new places carries over into how she approaches her job as a CVB head. "I'm definitely a people person, and I enjoy discovering the uniqueness of destinations and being able to share that with the general public and others with- in the industry," Francois says. "That excites me: being able to introduce some- body to a destination and its offerings and the special things that happen there." "I'm definitely a people person, and I enjoy discovering the uniqueness ofdestinations and being able to share that with the general public and others within the industry,"

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