Zondra White Jones, Senior Sales Manager
Louisiana Northshore/ St Tammany Parish Tourist Commission
Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?
I started working in tourism as a front desk clerk at the Holiday Inn Covington in 1995. Immediately I felt like I found my niche as it was something different every day. I made connections and built working relationships with the guests that still last today. After a few years I was promoted to the sales department and it opened a whole new world for me. I left the hotel industry and started at the St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission and never looked back.
Why did you choose to become a meeting professional?
I originally wanted to be a Broadway singer or a radio personality, but I started a family at a young age and my path changed to being a wife and a mother. I have been married for 28 years and we have three children that reside all over the US.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?
I really enjoy meeting and connecting with people. In general, people are excited to plan events and I get the privilege to assist them. Working for a CVB with the amount of contacts we have, we can assist from beginning to end.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
I am a people person and working from home for more than six months, like many others, has taken a toll on my mental health. A few months ago, my two sisters, niece, daughter and I starting having virtual house parties every Saturday night. It includes cocktails, trivia games, chatting about the week before and what movies or TV shows to watch. It has been my saving grace.
Have you or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If so, which platform are you using?
Let’s just say like many others, we have had to get real creative. We have hosted a few Zoom virtual site visits for current and potential clients and are planning a virtual meeting. We are also in the process of making a 45 second video that shows St. Tammany Parish is meeting and following COVID-19 safety guidelines and will send it to our clients.
Are you in the process of planning any in-person events in the remaining months of 2020? Fortunately we have already hosted a few small group tours, sporting events, and fishing tournaments. However the meetings market have either cancelled for 2020 or postponed to 2021.
What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?
It will definitely take a while before people feel comfortable with planning and attending in person events. Moving forward we all know there will be a ‘new’ normal and yet, I’m hopeful because people love to travel. They need to be around each other. At least I know I do and when traveling picks back up I will welcome them “safely” to Louisiana Northshore.