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Expert Insight with Colleen Palmertree

“I’ll never buy a snow shovel.”

Colleen Palmertree grew up with plenty of snow during the cold winters of upstate New York, just a short drive from the Canadian border. But since moving to Memphis, Tennessee, more than 20 years ago, she considers herself an honorary Southerner.

“I love Memphis,” she said. “The weather is fabulous, and the Southern hospitality is amazing. I love the blues, soul and rock ’n’ roll, and the smell of barbecue.”

That love of her adopted hometown serves Palmertree well. As the national sales manager for Tourism Memphis, she employs her enthusiasm to attract tour operators and travel planners to bring their groups to the city.

“I primarily focus on bringing in motorcoach groups: students, bankers, all group travel,” she said. “Memphis is really growing. We’re a unique city, an under-the-radar destination with over-the-top attractions.”

From an early age, Palmertree had her sights set on jobs in the tourism industry.

“I went to college for hospitality and tourism at a private college in upstate New York,” she said. “The college owned a hotel and also a travel agency. It was really hands-on. I learned the front of the house and the back of the house. We booked trains, cruises and other travel.

“I thought for sure I was going to be a tour guide and travel the world. I have always been passionate about travel. But working in the hotel, you can move up very quickly. There are so many departments you can transfer to. The job opportunities are endless.”

After finishing college, Palmertree began a series of jobs at hotels in places such as New York, Missouri and Boston. Eventually, a job with the Peabody Hotel Group brought her to Memphis. From there, she spent some time at major casino resorts in northern Mississippi before coming back to take a position at Memphis Tourism, where she has worked for nine years.

“This has been such a great experience,” she said of working for Memphis Tourism. “Every day I learn something. I’m creating memories and selling the whole city.”

Palmertree uses a mix of traditional and contemporary methods to attract groups to Memphis. She regularly attends a number of trade shows to meet one-on-one with tour operators. Her organization has a digital marketing strategy to target travelers online. And increasingly, she relies on in-person events to highlight her city.

“This industry is changing so quickly that we’re really thinking outside of the box,” she said. “We do a lot of client events where we bring Memphis to a feeder market. Or we bring clients for things in Memphis, like a Justin Timberlake concert, because he’s from here.”

When she’s not at work or traveling to promote Memphis tourism, Palmertree is often out and about taking advantage of the same attractions and activities that visitors enjoy.

“My daughter is 11,” she said. “When we get a chance, we go to the zoo — it never gets old. And we go to the Peabody to see the duck march. Who doesn’t love being in the lobby of the South’s grand hotel? Beale Street is always fun. And we love getting barbecue nachos or going to a Red Birds baseball game.”

Sales Tip From Colleen

“Follow-up is key. And a lot of people just don’t take the time to follow up. Whenever you meet with someone, you need to follow up with them and send them the information you promised.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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