Like many students, Roger Dudley wasn’t sure what major to choose during his first year in college. But when he saw that his university offered an introductory class on tourism, it piqued an interest he had cultivated since childhood.
“My parents and our family went on vacations every year,” he said. “We would go camping or go to the Smoky Mountains. I worked at a campground when I was in high school, so I already had a little bit of passion and experience for that area.”
He took that course and loved it, then decided to major in recreation with a focus on tourism. That decision led to a full-time internship at the convention and visitors bureau in Bowling Green, Ohio, where his college was located.
“That’s where I first learned the CVB culture and what working with tour operators was like,” he said. “Then my first job after school was planning children’s birthday parties at a water park hotel. From there, I joined the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where I really dove into working with tour operators and event planners. And that led me to Experience Columbus.”
Experience Columbus is the convention and visitors bureau for Columbus, Ohio’s capital city. In his capacity as director of tourism sales for the organization, Dudley serves as the city’s primary ambassador to the group tourism market. And he spends a lot of time showing tour operators and other travel influencers around the thriving destination.
The job can be a lot of work, but like many careers in tourism, it comes with a fair share of fun.
“Dining at all our restaurants is one of the things I enjoy the most,” he said. “I love showing travel writers and tour operators our wonderful restaurants, coffee, ice cream and craft beer. I also love taking people to our vast array of attractions, from the small ones, like the Candle Lab, to the big ones, like the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum.”
In addition to bringing travel planners into his city, Dudley also travels to meet them in other places. Many of those trips involve attending major tourism events such as the American Bus Association Marketplace, NTA’s Travel Exchange and Travel Alliance Partners’ TAP Dance, in addition to niche conferences such as Select Traveler and Boomers in Groups.
Dudley’s passion for tourism has also led him to volunteer for leadership roles in various organizations, both local and nationally.
“I’ve gotten involved with ABA on their orientation for Marketplace for the past two years, helping all the new delegates,” he said. “I’ve also volunteered on NTA’s Young Professionals Advisory Committee for the past three years as well. I’ve sat on the board for the Ohio Travel Association. And for the past two years, I’ve been the president of Ohio Has It, an industry-led marketing initiative for the state and the group tour players.”
Between working at home and traveling to tourism events around the country, promoting Columbus keeps Dudley fairly busy. But when he has spare time, you’re likely to find him out and about in Columbus, supporting local organizations and enjoying the cultural scene.
“I love attending fundraisers,” he said. “I think it’s important to support our arts community and our small nonprofits. And I go to gallery hops in the Short North Arts District several times a year. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”
Sales Tip from Roger
“Be authentic and honest. If you do not know the answer, let the customer know and find the real solution for them — don’t make something up on the spot.”