People who work in tourism often describe the industry as being “like a big family.” But for Ali Brewer, director of group sales at the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C., the sentiment is literal.
“My aunt is in the industry and works for ABA [the American Bus Association],” said Brewer, who earned a degree from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where she grew up. “While I was in college, she offered me an internship for their annual conference. I did that for two years. When I got out, I kept the internship going because I loved the people.”
A few weeks before the internship ended, Brewer learned of a permanent position opening up at the association’s offices in Washington. It was an entry-level role, and Brewer went through all the normal steps: filling out an application, submitting a resume and sitting through several rounds of interviews. She got the job and found it as great as she had hoped.
“The people are just amazing,” she said. “I didn’t realize that the workforce could have such wonderful people. Everyone’s so amazing in tourism — I couldn’t imagine working in a different industry.”
Brewer spent eight years in Washington working for ABA and exploring neighborhoods like Old Town and the District Wharf. Eventually, though, she began looking for a chance to chart her own path forward.
“Leaving was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made because ABA is so wonderful to work for,” she said. “But I found this new museum getting ready to open. It was a startup, and I was interested in getting in on the ground floor. I had relationships with tour operators for eight years, so I was able to move those relationships into a supplier role.”
The museum opened last fall and has already welcomed nearly 500 groups. Brewer said reservations for 2020 are looking strong as well.
“People are moving away from traditional museums,” she said. “The museum has a very open floor plan. It’s very hands-on; we have over 100 touch screens. You’re engaging with the exhibits instead of reading them.”
Brewer recently moved to Wisconsin to support her boyfriend, who is stationed there with the Air Force, but continues to work for the museum remotely. And that work takes her to many of her old stomping grounds, such as ABA’s annual convention.
She loved attending the event as a supplier instead of a staff member. She has also come to appreciate the dedication of tourism professionals in a way she didn’t when she worked for the association.
“Appointments are exhausting,” she said. “You say the same thing over and over again. It wears me out. When I was at ABA, I used to talk to a lot of the newbies and give them tips, like ‘Wear comfortable shoes.’ But I didn’t realize how applicable that was to the appointment process. All the pointers I gathered over the years — I’m realizing that they actually work.”
Sales Tip from Ali
“Do what you say you’re going to do. Trust is a huge component in sales, and building that trust starts with simply doing what you say you’re going to do.”