GETTING STARTED | Helping Others Hit the Road: How those in the tourism and travel industry started their journey


By Alison Bailin Batz

One thing most people have in common – the travel bug! A lucky few take their love of travel to the next level by making a career out of their passion. Here’s a look at what inspired some of Arizona’s most respected tourism professionals to do just that:

“My parents moved to Arizona from New England for Dad’s geological work. Being East Coasters, they dressed me in button-down formal shirts and pants from a young age, which was normal for New England, but certainly not for the Sonoran Desert (especially in August). Once I found myself buying cowboy boots and flip-flops rather than the more formal wear found on the other side of the country, I became fascinated with the culture of the Southwest. I coupled this fascination with my eagerness to help change adverse conditions into palatable ones, which is what public relations folks do each day, as well as my love of treating folks to great chimichangas and carne asada, and never looked back.” –Douglas MacKenzie, Director of Media Relations, Visit Phoenix

“The year I was Miss Rodeo Arizona, I traveled 80,000 miles promoting Arizona around the country and beyond. I loved showing people that the Grand Canyon was just the beginning of Arizona’s wonders, so much so, in fact, that I changed my then-degree program of choice at ASU (in pre-veterinary science) for a more relevant agri-business degree with a marketing emphasis. Then, while earning my MBA at UNLV, I landed an internship with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. What an opportunity! I leveraged that experience and paired it with my passion for Arizona to earn my current position, promoting all things Cochise County, which includes ghost towns, arts districts, unrivaled natural wonders like Kartchner Caverns and Chiricahua National Monument and – of course – the iconic Tombstone.” –Kate Cox, Marketing Coordinator, Cochise County Tourism Council

“I grew up doing road trips until our parents took us on a cruise when I was 17. I was hooked! In 1984, I went to American Express travel school, which is defunct these days. Back then, selling travel was a very manual process. I interned at Fifth Avenue Travel in Scottsdale to learn the ropes and eventually landed a job as a call receiver/sales agent for Club Med. I worked there for 13 years and learned so much and had the opportunity to travel the world!” –Amy Moreno, Owner, Galcations


“While in college, I developed a taste for wine. I continued to try new varietals and refine my palate as I began my career, first in politics and then in stockbroking. During that time, wine, travel and the outdoors – especially competitive cycling, hiking and mountain climbing – were my solace. Eventually, these passions won out. I quit my day job amidst the Great Recession and with my family, decided to return to our farming roots and bought land to grow grapes in Willcox. We called it Carlson Creek Vineyard and dove headfirst into the business. Once we got a few years under our belts, our wines were earning award-winning status in both local and national competitions. The result: I travel across the country and beyond, spreading the word about Arizona wines to the media, wine lovers and fellow travel lovers like myself nearly every day.” –Robert Carlson III, Winemaker and co-owner, Carlson Creek Vineyard

“I moved to Arizona sight unseen to attend ASU. I immediately fell in love with the weather and diverse landscapes. As a military brat, this is the longest I have ever lived in one place. My first tourism job in Arizona was working for the iconic Arizona Biltmore Resort. I had studied history and art history but always worked in marketing and PR. That allowed me to grow into a position at the resort and eventually become the historian too. I loved sharing the historic stories of the property with visitors. Storytelling is such an integral piece of public relations,  and I’m fortunate that now I get to travel and tell the stories of our amazing state to potential visitors from around the world.” –Becky Blaine, Deputy Director, Arizona Office of Tourism


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