Haley Follett – Visit Galveston

Haley Follett

Meetings & Events Services Coordinator, Visit Galveston

Galveston, Texas

Describe your job.

Meeting and events services coordinator is my official title, but I like to say, “I’m your gal for all things island.” My daily goal is to assure planners bringing their meetings to our shores have all the support and information they need. Whether that looks like marketing materials, local expertise, or any of our extra services, I’m here to help. I strive to create authentic local experiences for our clients that have them not only engaging in our community, but also leave them with a lasting impression that makes them want to return.

What made you choose the meetings and events industry?

I’ve always been a planner. As a child, I would even plan my birthday parties! No matter what industry or where life has taken me, I always plan meetings and events. It’s just part of who I am.

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

I graduated from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and immediately took a role with the United Way of Brazoria County. After a few years, I found myself wanting to experience the world.

I lived in the same county for most of my life. Even while attending college, I drove back and forth daily from my small town to campus. During my college years and United Way days, I’d taken short trips within the United States, but I’d never been abroad. I planned my first trip out of the country to Europe for two weeks and fell in love with experiencing other countries and cultures. When I returned, I knew I wanted to live abroad, and I set my sights on finding a position that would allow that to happen. A year later—almost to the day—I moved to Nanjing, China, as an English teacher/event planner for an international school.

After a year, I finished my contract. Even though the school, my colleagues, and the students will forever have a special place in my heart, I knew I was ready for the next adventure. Darren, now my husband, and I met during that year and planned a six-month trip that turned into four years. Together, we’ve traveled to eight countries by train, plane, bus, motorcycle, and tuk-tuk.

Travel taught me the importance of patience, adaptability, and communication. I broadened my limited view of the world and saw how other cultures live and interact. It’s given me more understanding and appreciation for things our clients and partners of different cultures might need or be looking for in a meeting destination. When I returned to America, I set my sights on the travel industry and soon found a home with Visit Galveston.

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

Visit Galveston does a fantastic job encouraging employees to pursue professional development and ongoing education opportunities and to network through industry and civic groups. I am a member of the Event Service Professionals Association and Destinations International. Communicating openly with my peers working in other destinations is a great way to share and grow ideas.

What essential skills should every industry professional possess?

Excellent communication. Whatever the task, event, or relationship, communication is always at the core of its success or failure.

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

I was lucky enough to have a true powerhouse of a boss in my first professional role. She told me: “Haley, you are the only person that can control how you react. When something goes wrong or even right, the only thing you can control at that moment is your reaction.” I’ve carried that advice with me, and it’s served me well.

Describe your biggest professional success.

This may sound silly to some, but I consider my re-entry into the U.S. workforce a major success. It would have been easy for an employer to look at my resume with years of travel and adventure and question me. But I’ve made a point of learning as much about this industry and my destination as possible. There are many advantages to using the knowledge and skills I gained from traveling.

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

I wouldn’t say it didn’t go as planned, but last year I had a large student organization reach out about a scheduled promotional filming date. I immediately realized it was the same time as the Lone Star Rally—a motorcycle event in Galveston that draws 500,000 motorcyclists. The festival is incredible, but it also uses many of the filming locations and roads proposed by the student organization. I set up a full-day schedule highlighting island businesses and spent the day with the filming crew to help them navigate the island. Not only was the video a fantastic success, but the students and sponsors also got to experience a bit of the Lone Star Rally.

What is the best part of your job?

I love people! I always look forward to site visits, familiarization tours, and client meetings. As cheesy as it sounds, I love watching people experience Galveston Island for the first time. It’s easy to think of the beach when you hear Galveston Island, but this little sandbar is home to a plethora of history, interesting architecture, and cultural diversity. It brings me so much joy to watch the light bulb go off when a client finds their connection to the island. I call it “island magic.”

I love that there is a little something for everyone on this island. We have spacious beaches—32 miles in total. I always tell meeting planners they should try to catch at least one sunrise over the Gulf. The sunrises here are some of the best I’ve ever experienced. But to me, the true beauty of Galveston is experienced when you step off the sand. There is a rich history here, from Galveston being second to Ellis Island as a port of immigration to the 1900 Storm, followed by an impressive comeback. The influence of this comeback is apparent in the architecture, cuisine, and roots of this resilient city. Island offsite events can look like a haunted ghost tour, sandcastle-building competition, or Gulf-to-table banquet dinner served in a historic mansion—and that’s just the start. There is so much room to get creative with meetings on the island, and I welcome the opportunity to be the person that helps create those memorable experiences.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I’m a massive travel enthusiast and love experiencing new places and cultures. My other favorite pastimes are hiking and camping. There is something about disconnecting and just being in nature that feeds my wild little soul.

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