Bree Nidds bid aloha to her home state of North Carolina at age 17 and set sail for the University of Hawaii. While varsity sports were not on her radar at the time, Nidds walked onto Hawaii’s sailing team. Nidds, who left Wilmington & Beaches (N.C.) last year to help launch VBR Sports (a new division of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge), remains a student-athlete in many ways. These days, you’ll most likely see her on a mountain bike exploring the Appalachian Mountains, learning about her new home.
Nidds’ free time also includes an online Master’s program through N.C. State in parks, recreation, tourism and sports management. You can easily argue Nidds is a master in all those subjects already, but her enrollment speaks to her dedication to be the best at everything she does. That drive is what drew Alex Michaels, vice president of sales at Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, to place the region’s sports tourism department in the hands of this bright young superstar. Connect Sports went ’round the mountain with Nidds to learn why she traded the beach for this new journey.
How did you get into sports?
I loved sports early on as a child and played high school sports. I went on to the University of Hawaii and had no intention play sports there. Then I walked on to the sailing team without ever sailing before and learned the sport. We traveled up and down California coast for regattas and to Texas. That gave me great a perspective of travel sports on a collegiate level.
How else did college life prepare you for your professional life?
Another component of the college experience was going out to University of Hawaii without knowing anyone. I was 17—very young and independent. Independence has really helped me grow in any position. I’m a team player, but I love going after things on my own and not setting any limits. Even saying, “I’m a beach girl” is almost setting a limit. I’ll be a mountain girl for a while. I am very open to new opportunities.
How does life in the mountains compare to the beach?
The one thing I missed in Wilmington was having diversity of terrain. It is so flat. When I came here for my first visit, I was stoked just to drive around. I have a road bike, and there is a 26-mile green way system behind my apartment and I bike on that. The hills are challenging.
How will VBR Sports assist the region’s already sports tourism program?
This is a pretty well-oiled machine. It needs to be taken to the next level and capitalizing on all the jurisdictions and what they have to offer. We are much more than a single-minded destination. Not just softball or football. We’re looking at everything from cross-county to Ultimate to triathlons. We’re open to a lot more than what has been here in the past, and we have dedicated the funds and efforts to it.
How do you use social media to make you more effective at your job?
I think you really have to be excited to live in the destination to promote it properly. You have to be willing to explore all the different things you are going to be selling. That’s what I like to do. I like to show people what I like to do and what I’m genuinely excited and passionate about in the area. Even if they are not going on and visibly liking something, you are still leaving that impression. I have developed a pretty big network of people on LinkedIn. I recognize that as almost my best return. I go to meetings and conferences and people talk about my posts on LinkedIn. So I know it’s working in some capacity.
You’re getting your master’s in, among things, parks and rec. What do you think is the common challenge that CVBs have working with their local recreation departments?
When I run into colleagues in the industry who say their parks and rec don’t work with them, I ask, “Why are you here at this conference?” They need to be back home building that relationship and credibility with partners at home. Why be out soliciting for events you can’t book because you don’t have that relationship? When an event comes to me, I immediately turn to parks and rec because we have that relationship.