3 Takeaways From the Women in Sports Tourism Forum

By Suzanne Keller, CSEE, December 11, 2018

During the first week of November, more than 40 women from within the sports tourism industry came together for the third annual Connect Women in Sports Tourism Forum. What began two short years ago has quickly grown into a robust and welcoming opportunity for networking, professional development and advancement. For those that couldn’t join the group this year, here are a few key takeaways from the three-day conference in Destin, Florida.

Industry’s Future Leaders

As with many group functions, the Women in Sports Tourism Forum was not short on ice-breakers and teambuilding exercises. In one situation, we went around giving our names, where we worked and how long we’ve been working in the industry. Many of the women were newer to sports tourism and/or haven’t been involved as much in industry events. It was exciting to consider that, unlike many of the educational sessions we regularly attend and hear from the same people repeatedly, we were currently sitting in the room with the next generation of leaders.

In addition to the 40 women already actively working in sports and tourism, we were joined by a handful of young, female sports-management students from nearby universities. Not only was this an opportunity to show them real-life possibilities in the field, but it began a bigger conversation among all on the importance of building a network, the value in mentor relationships and ultimately how to use these relationships over the span of your career.

Outsource and Automate

Every year, it feels like we just get busier and busier. There’s always another project to work on, a client to follow up with or a conference to prepare for—and that doesn’t take into account all of the responsibilities in our personal life.

This year’s Women in Sports Tourism Forum kicked off with a keynote by Crystal Washington, CSP, to address the ongoing struggle with work-life balance. Washington works with organizations that want to leverage technology to increase profits and productivity and her overarching message was simple, and one we were all eager to hear more about—namely, how to use technology to delegate and move things off your plate. With practical information related to apps, websites and ways in which our smartphones can all be a part of the solution, Washington provided the women in the room the ability to get more done in less time.

In His Shoes

In this moment of Times Up and the #MeToo movement, we were grateful to have a few of our male colleagues join us for an all-male panel to discuss their perspective on workplace concerns. These men were open with us on how they approach salary negotiations, how they prepare for interviews and annual reviews and spoke on the advice they would give anyone working in the sports tourism industry.

Sitting there, listening to women around the room give voice to the small, and sometimes big, hurdles they have faced throughout their career not only lent itself to a feeling of camaraderie, but it led to an incredibly insightful discussion with the panelists sharing their viewpoints on those situations as well. The long-lasting lesson was clear though for all of us: Know your worth and have the data and hard numbers to back it up.


Suzanne Keller, Visit MesaSuzanne Keller, CSEE, has been director of sports at Visit Mesa since Oct. 2016. She was previously events director at Adrenaline Lacrosse.

Sports Oregon CEO Jim Etzel discusses why left the agency he created and ran for 20-plus years to take the help at the sports events organization.

The Professional Disc Golf Association is seeking proposals to host its 2021 Professional Disc Golf World Championships. RFPs are due Nov. 1.

All attendees at Connect Sports 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky, can attest that this year’s conference was our best. Here are the highlights.

Holly Anderson, a key player in the sports tourism industry for more than a decade, has been promoted to lead Connect Sports.

Latest