Congrats to Kathryn Shea Duncan, Director of Social Media at Visit Lake Charles, Louisiana. She’s one of nine winners in the second annual Emerging Tourism Stars program in partnership with MMGY Global.
Readers will meet the winners in upcoming issues of The Travel Vertical and they’ll be recognized in person during the 23rd Annual eTourism Summit on June 6-8, 2022 in Orlando.
What’s an Emerging Tourism Star? Savvy individuals (of any age!) in destination marketing and attractions that are new to the eTourism Community of digital travel and tourism professionals or have risen to the challenges of a role.
- Winners will be directly connected with a travel and tourism leader as a mentor
- Winners receive a scholarship to attend eTourism Summit
- Winners will participate in a panel conversation at eTourism Summit moderated by MMGY Global
- One winner will fill the eTS Emerging Tourism Star Advisory Board Seat (an annual appointment)
Q: Tell us about your professional journey. How did you arrive at your role?
I graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in May 2018 and accepted a position immediately after graduation as the Special Projects Coordinator at the Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce. In college, I worked anywhere from 2-4 jobs at a time, trying to get experience in any field that interested me. I worked in retail, photography/writing for a luxury neighborhood magazine, marketing for Lafayette Habitat for Humanity, freelance portrait and commercial photographer, and even an on-campus job in between classes. Each role played a part in crafting and leading me to where my professional journey would take me after graduation.
I had no idea that a tourism career would interest me until I traveled the country as the 81st International Rice Festival Queen from 2017 to 2018. During my year reign, I traveled to over 80 events, festivals, and communities across the country, experiencing firsthand the power of destination marketing in even the smallest of communities.
After a year at the Chamber, I was recruited by Kyle Edmiston, President/CEO of Visit Lake Charles, to become the media/public relations manager. After nearly 2.5 years in this role, I was promoted in January 2022 as the director of social media.
I am very grateful that at the age of 25 I am in a career and profession that I enjoy every day. From photography to social media strategy, I can utilize all my talents to their greatest potential in my role at Visit Lake Charles.
Q: What are first-time visitors most surprised to learn about the destination?
Lake Charles is a blend of contrasts that magically works together in total harmony. With two side-by-side luxurious casino resorts, you’re able to unwind at the spas, float along the lazy rivers, witness entertainment from ZZ Top to comedian Tom Segura, golfing, and more. Within a short drive, you can also experience the untouched natural beauty along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road by crabbing, birding, fishing, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, shelling, and relaxing at the Gulf beaches and waterways.
Additionally, we consider our region to be the “Festival Capital of Louisiana” with dozens of festivals and fairs held annually. Events such as the Louisiana Pirate Festival, Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival, Iowa Rabbit Festival, Smoke & Barrel, Rouge et Blanc, Lake Charles Rum Revival, DeQuincy Railroad Festival, Boudin Wars… And I could go on and on! We host the second largest Mardi Gras in Louisiana, specifically known for being very family-friendly.
Q: Southwestern Louisiana has had a lot of challenges in addition to the pandemic. What have you learned about crisis communications and what can you tell us about recovery?
In addition to COVID, Lake Charles has endured two back-to-back major hurricanes (August and October 2020), Winter Storm Uri (February 2021), and a historic flood (May 2021).
In my role as the media/public relations manager, my role shifted from pitching outdoor family-friendly activities to telling the destination’s recovery story.
In the days after Hurricane Laura (near Category 5), my eyes rarely lifted from my screen. I was monitoring media coverage, collecting hero stories, and facilitating and participating in interviews for media outlets across the world. Disaster after disaster, it was important to ensure I was telling uplifting and powerful stories of our destination’s recovery from every angle.
Recovery still is ongoing in parts of our region. However, after one year and 8 months after the landfall of Hurricane Laura, our region is telling a triumphant story. There have been several announcements and groundbreakings for projects across the region, particularly on our lakefront, such as the new Port Wonder, Crying Eagle Brewing’s microbrewery and full-service restaurant, Lake Area Adventures outdoor activity rentals, and Paul’s Rib Shack.
The area will look radically different in the near future, and I am thrilled to be a part of the VLC team to see our community flourish.
Q: What are some of your personal career goals and aspirations as an Emerging Tourism Leader?
I certainly consider myself a forward-thinker and career-driven young professional. I anticipate my career in tourism to be filled with leadership and mentorship that will guide me to achieve my goals. I aspire to first and foremost be the best leader I can be in any given role, no matter the title. As a professional, you’ll likely notice I am usually working quietly behind the scenes and listening more than speaking. I believe in playing to my strengths, such as my commitment to teamwork, empathy, and ability to connect with others.
I look forward to the future where my strengthened leadership qualities and industry knowledge will steer me to effectively lead a team of marketing professionals at a DMO.
I aspire to fine-tune my photography and videography skills to elevate the destination’s brand marketing. I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration at McNeese State University with plans to graduate in 2023. Additionally, I would like to obtain my Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification and Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) credential in the future.
Q: What recent business trip have you most enjoyed and why?
In October 2021, I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the Society of American Travel Writers Annual Convention. From the DMO’s staff, SATW convention organizers, and the Milwaukee community, I was impressed at every turn. The diversity in cuisine and impressive arts and theatre scene both made lasting impacts on me.
Q: What do you hope to gain from attending your first eTourism Summit in 2022?
The summit will allow me the opportunity to put Southwest Louisiana in a national spotlight, form deeper connections with industry partners, and gain first-hand knowledge from seasoned tour and travel professionals. I couldn’t be more thrilled for the opportunity to advance my destination marketing and communication expertise, which will allow me to further demonstrate the value of our organization in Lake Charles.