When nearly one out of every three jobs in metro Orlando is supported by the industry you help brand and market, which results in more than $57 billion in annual economic impact, drawing some 60 million people from around the world, according to Danielle Courtenay, “Once hospitality gets into your blood, it’s a hard industry to leave.”
Visit Orlando’s chief marketing officer conceded, “I really fell into tourism marketing by accident. I moved to work at an advertising and public relations agency that had a foothold in the hospitality industry along with clients in banking, consumer products and medical. I worked on a lot of the destinations and hotels and became immersed in the industry.”
Though everyone in the industry is jockeying for market share, Courtenay is continually surprised by “how open and collaborative everyone is in the industry, despite being competitors.” It is just that kind of collaborative effort, not only within the industry among its key players, but with Orange County and the City of Orlando, that have brought about the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the Amway Center, the new Citrus Bowl and the soon to be completed Orlando City Soccer Stadium, while also making Orlando the most visited destination in the U.S.
Courtenay explained that the strategic role she plays now was largely due to a decision she made when she was first introduced to the industry. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about all aspects of the business and how they fit together, rather than limit myself only to my area. That allowed me to strategically understand how they impact each other.”
She also credits her sisters and her friends who taught her “how to build confidence in what you do and how to work with teams to excel, even if the task is outside your comfort zone.” Another inspiration was her high school swimming and diving coach. “He was always reaching for the stars. In fact, he applied to be the first teacher in space. He taught me how to visualize success,” she said. These are important skills for someone like Courtenay, who helped spur the industry back after hurricanes, the 9/11 attacks and the economic recession.
Since one of Visit Orlando’s primary target markets is women and moms, Courtenay feels that being both helps her relate and understand what will motivate them, while providing valuable insights for women in any career field. “Many times, as people start talking about careers, personal interests and family, they focus on how to balance everything. If you are constantly trying to keep everything balanced, one small item can tip the scale. Think of integration instead. At work, your personal life does not stop and after hours, work ideas may be a part of how you spend your time. It is about trading off and working both sides together,” she said.