CATCHING UP WITH CONNIE KINNARD
Vice President, Multicultural Tourism and Development,
Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
BY SHARON FLETCHER JONES
Connie Kinnard is an extremely busy woman. Her tenure at GMCVB began on June 1, 2015. However, her preparation for this opportunity began long before. While there were a number of highly qualified candidates for this decidedly critical position, Kinnard’s twenty years of experience and outstanding success in the specialized field of multicultural tourism sealed her recommendation by the selection committee.
Catching up with the new Vice President of Multicultural Tourism and Development at Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau was no small feat. Nonetheless, Ms. Kinnard took time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions :
OM: What were your favorite subjects in elementary school?
CK: My favorite subjects in elementary school were history and art. My teachers from the 1st through 3rd grade were very creative and engaged with their students. I remember each of them very well… Mrs. Spencer, Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Turk. They brought history to life and also encouraged the creative art side of my brain in those areas.
OM: How did that change as you moved throughout your secondary and undergraduate education?
CK: While I was a good student, as I progressed through school I enjoyed more and more the social side and extracurricular activities. In Jr. High and High School, I was involved in Student Council, editor of the Jr. High Yearbook, in the band, on the Jr. and Sr. Prom Committees, a Mat Girl (wrestling cheerleader) and many other activities that were social in nature. The same held true for me in college. Actually, it is ironic that I was able to thrive in those social settings as every personality test that I have taken revealed that I am an introvert by nature. Go Figure.
OM: What, if any, were the indicators that you would have a career in tourism?
CK: I don’t think that there were any blaring indicators that I would be in tourism. I will say that as a child we traveled a lot. My parents wanted to make sure that we experienced other environments. We were the family that did summer vacations regularly. My parents traveled a lot, especially my mother. She was a teacher and did many of the group school trips to include traveling all over the US and also internationally to places like London, Paris, Greece and more. Locally she travelled regularly with her teacher buddies taking excursions to various places in the South. I think that subliminally between being exposed to travel opportunities growing up and being an assistant manager at a restaurant during my college years was my entrée to the hospitality, tourism and convention industry.
OM: You have been a member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and the Hispanic Meeting Professionals. How do you view diversity in the industry among consumers and among professionals?
CK: The need for diversity in the industry of hospitality and tourism is still ongoing. The need falls in various areas. The push to get youth to understand that this industry is lucrative and multifaceted so that they will choose it as a career path is a need. It is an industry that you can literally work your way from the “bottom” to the “top”. It is an industry that yes is based upon your education and just like other career fields, loves for those entering to have a college degree in a related concentration and even post degrees, which are favored. On the flip side, someone that may not be able to go as far in education still can make a great career in the hospitality industry if they are willing to work hard and have a natural love for people and service. The push for diversity in top level positions continues to be a need. Persons of color still are not represented at top levels of management in this industry. It has changed a lot for the better but there is still work to be done to make sure women and qualified individuals from various ethnic backgrounds are treated fairly and equitably by getting the opportunity to become presidents, general managers, CEO’s, COO’s, VP’s etc.
I am thankful to Nashville and now very thankful to the Greater Miami Convention & Vistors Bureau for giving me the opportunity to serve in a senior leadership role.
OM: Coming from Nashville with 20 years of experience in multicultural tourism, what are your goals for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau?
CK: The working vision for the Multicultural Tourism & Development Department is to develop and promote Miami’s multicultural communities, attractions and events to visitors both domestic and international as the leading destination for heritage tourism. We will work locally to build consistency and economic sustainability, broadening the scope of initiatives and maximizing marketing opportunities with multicultural and ethnically diverse businesses that are or could be directly impacted by tourism.
OM: Who or what has been a great influence or has had the most impact on your career?
CK: My parents have made the biggest impact on my career. They kept a positive attitude and encouraged me to look for the good in things and people. I also have been fortunate to have many inspirations and mentors to help guide me in life and career decisions. Lastly, but in no way least, my belief in God and endless possibilities through HIM guide me daily.
OM: What advice would you give anyone seeking a similar career path?
CK: Build true relationships, stay humble, learn an additional language, stay true to your moral compass, be flexible and steadfast at the same time, say “Thank You” and “Good Morning”, Pray, learn skills in one or more of the following areas: Marketing, Sales, Public Relations, Management, Event Planning, specialized training in Multicultural Marketing and Cultural Relations.
OM: If you could choose one, what would be the theme song for your life thus far?
CK: I can’t choose one…LOL…but I have two that have the same word in it – GOLDEN. The two songs that I am identifying with right now are “Golden” (Living my Life like it’s Golden) by Jill Scott and “Golden Time of Day” by Frankie Beverly & Maze. If you listen to the lyrics of both songs, they represent a feeling of freedom, happiness and a personal peace. As I have gotten older, I feel more balanced, more content in many areas of my life and it feels good -It’s Golden.
OM: What is the most important part of your job?
CK: The most important part of my job is the relationships that I am building. Good relationships lead to good outcomes. Genuine relationships go far beyond a job. They can be life long, so I value the new relationships that I am making here in Miami.
OM: What career would you pursue if not the one you’re in?
CK: I am from Franklin, TN which is right outside of Nashville, TN. I believe everyone in that area of Middle TN secretly would love to be in the music business!! I would love to be a singer!! Now, you need to be able to sing in order to do that, so if I could sing like CeCe Winans or Whitney Houston, I would be on the road right now! A more realistic career would be in the music management side. I do like working with entertainers, so a profession in music management would probably be the path that I would take.
OM: What would be a little known Connie Kinnard history fact?
CK: 1) My mother loved country music, so thus my middle name is Wynette, named after Tammy Wynette (Country Music Icon).
2) I have a family connection to the late great Bobby Hebb. I actually called him “Uncle Bobby”. Most people will not recognize his name but will have heard the song he wrote called “Sunny”. Sunny is one of the most covered popular songs, with hundreds of versions released. BMI rates “Sunny” number 25 in its “Top 100 songs of the century. Bobby Hebb is from Nashville, TN.
OM: What would you like our readers to know about the GMCVB?
CK: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is an accredited Destination Marketing Organization and the official destination sales and marketing organization for Greater Miami and the Beaches. It is an independent private-public partnership with more than 1,000 private business partners and four local governments: Miami-Dade County, City of Miami Beach, City of Miami and Village of Bal Harbour. Acting on behalf of its partners, interlocal partners and the citizens of MiamiDade County, the GMCVB markets and promotes all segments of the community as a preferred tropical, cosmopolitan and multicultural destination for conventions, business and pleasure. The current marketing slogan is It’s So Miami or #SoMiami. The website is www.miamiandbeaches.com