Carolyn Barrett – Visit Kenner

Carolyn Barrett

Executive Director, Visit Kenner

Kenner, La.

Describe your job.

I promote the City of Kenner, La., in every way possible. From attending tradeshows and conferences to sending out leads for meetings and events, posting on social media, and producing and assisting with events in Kenner such as Mardi Gras and Kenner Food Truck Fest. As a one-person show, I also handle bookkeeping, insurance, and everything else to keep Visit Kenner running. Need a convention services manager to assist you? That would be me, too. Every day is different in my world, filled with challenges, opportunities, and excitement, and this is precisely how I like it.

How did you get started, and what got you from there to today?

I started my hospitality career as a bartender at a local Holiday Inn. Once I decided to expand my horizons, the management at my job worked with my schedule to allow me to be a front-desk agent two days a week and work at the bar three days a week before having the opportunity to transition to sales officially. I’ve worked at hotels in Louisiana, California, Colorado, Missouri, and Tennessee as a sales manager and director of sales before deciding to join the world of CVBs.

When Kenner decided to start their CVB, I was lucky enough to land my dream job: selling the city where I live. It’s been such a fantastic journey so far.

In 2008, I received the Sam Gilmer Supplier of the Year Award from the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP). In 2014, the Louisiana Society of Association Executives honored me with the Executive of the Year Award and the Supplier of the Year in 2015. In 2016, I was honored with the President’s Award for SGMP and served on the SGMP National Board and Gilmer Institute of Learning. I also helped charter the SGMP Tennessee and Louisiana chapters. In 2017, I was nominated as Kenner Business Association (KBA) Member of the Year, and currently, I’m the KBA president.

How do you keep up with industry trends, changes, and cutting-edge developments?

I read industry magazines, attend conferences and training, and belong to several organizations that offer tools to help me stay current. I also meet with my hospitality peers often to sync up. Living and working in Kenner, I remain fully immersed, aware, and active in the community on several levels.

What essential skills should every industry professional possess?

All industry professionals should be able to listen before speaking, have excellent communication skills, and have a firm understanding of how to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. All industry professionals also should know how to say “No,” which is hard to do.

What is the philosophy or approach to work that gets you through stressful times?

I take one step, day, and task at a time. When I am stressed, I remember that tomorrow will be a better day. Also, a bubble bath and glass of wine never hurt.

What is the best professional advice you ever received, and what advice do you have for others in the industry?

My best advice was, “If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, could someone else come in and take over for you?” This means I document everything and stay super organized so anyone assisting me or following me can step right in without missing a beat.

My advice for others:  If you join an organization, you will get back what you put into it, so join committees, attend events, offer input, and network as much as possible to continue growing your connections and learning about your industry. And always smile.

Describe your biggest professional success.

My most significant professional success was producing the inaugural Kenner Fest, which kicked off the Krewe of Isis parade in Kenner. The event felt like a true victory for our city. There was a band, two food trucks that sold out, and a beverage vendor that could barely keep up with the demand.
After missing Mardi Gras in 2021, people were excited to get out, enjoy the weather and the parade, and hang out with friends.
I was genuinely ecstatic and grateful about its overall success.

Share an anecdote about a meeting or event that did not go as planned and how you handled it.

I had a big sci-fi convention booked into a hotel. The convention took all 40,000 square feet of our ballroom plus all the breakout rooms. They ran daily from 9 a.m. to midnight and used most of our sleeping rooms. I had a migraine for two weeks, putting me in the hospital on the first day of the meeting. But the staff and my coworkers picked up the ball and ran with it, and we had a successful event. It taught me that I could give up control even if I didn’t like to.

What is the best part of your job?

I love representing the city where I live and showcasing our festivals, excellent restaurants, attractions, and hotels for others to discover. This position allows me to impact the world around me. I learn something new, meet incredible people, and have fun every day at my job. Each day is different, so I can’t get bored.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to read, travel, and enjoy all the wonderful festivals in the Greater New Orleans area. My Bichon Frisé dog, Beignet, and I love to walk and visit neighbors on our daily strolls. November and December are super busy because my husband and I play Santa and Mrs. Claus during the holidays.

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