Zondra Jones – St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission

Zondra Jones

Senior Sales Manager, St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission

Mandeville, La.

Describe your job.

I am responsible for promoting St. Tammany Parish as a tourist destination for the corporate, association, and SMERF markets. I work to generate new sales leads, maintain existing customer relationships, and build a sustainable and reputable presence within the surrounding communities. I also seek out new potential clients through the association, corporate, and SMERF markets and coordinate familiarization tours for planners who are interested in coming to our area.

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

I started as a hotel front desk clerk, which I loved. I enjoy assisting people in different walks of life and making their experience great. After a few years, I was promoted into the sales office as a sales coordinator and then sales manager. After 10 years at the same hotel, I was hired at the Tourist and Convention Commission, and I have been here for 15 years, this year as the senior sales manager. I feel so blessed to promote a destination that I grew up and still reside in.

Do you have a favorite type, size, or style of event to plan, or do you like variety?

I love variety, from corporate or association meetings, to assisting with planning offsite attractions and spousal tours, to any type of reunion. Assisting a planner with a corporate event and assisting one who is planning a reunion are totally different jobs, and that diversity keeps me from becoming stagnant in one market. That keeps the fires burning.

What’s your proudest moment so far in your career?

I earned my CGMP in July. I had contemplated taking the course for a couple of years. When someone who is currently on the SGMP national board challenged and encouraged me to take it, I did. I am very proud of myself for accepting the challenge to take the course and scoring high in the 90th percentile on the exam.

How has your business adapted to the ongoing uncertainties and challenges of the pandemic?

At the beginning of the pandemic, our sales team focused on staying in contact with our current and potential clients’ well-being. People really appreciated that and remember it. Once the vaccine became available and the COVID numbers started to decrease, we continued to do that while also sending updates about our area and what venues were starting to open again.

How do you keep up with industry trends and cutting-edge developments in the convention and meeting business? What new event industry trends are you excited about?

I read a lot of industry-related magazines and attend webinars to stay in the know. I’m excited companies are starting to plan in-person meetings again. They are smaller meetings, but they are in-person meetings. It’s going to be a slow process getting back to where we were, but I’m always hopeful.

What are the essential skills every newcomer into the industry should possess?

Networking skills. You can start out small. Just sit at a table full of strangers for a luncheon, introduce yourself and ask questions.

What is your best advice for industry newcomers?

Get to know the person and what they’re looking for before you try to sell to them. People do business with people they know and trust.

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