Career Path

Renee McKenney on Visitor Experience

How you treat people is what they will remember, says Renee McKenney, Chief Experience Officer for VisitDallas.

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Renee McKenney, CMP, Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer, VisitDallas

 EDUCATION

The University of Texas at Austin, with a bachelor’s degree from the Moody College of Communications.

MY FIRST INDUSTRY JOB

In 1988, working on a cruise ship. Served a year on board for Clipper Cruise Line, then moved to St. Louis to work in the management-training program for Adam’s Mark Hotels. Stayed in St.Louis to work for Southwest Airlines as an area marketing manager for the Midwest in the early ’90s.

MY PREVIOUS THREE JOBS

HelmsBriscoe, 13 years; Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau as director of industry relations and vice president of strategic alliances, five years; national sales for Disney Destinations, three years.

WHAT I DO

The visitor becomes our No. 1 priority. The goal is to always be asking ourselves how our decisions will directly impact the visitor experience. The Dallas experience starts with engaging front-line employees at airports, hotels, attractions, meeting spaces, and other hospitality professionals — to make our brand and brand promise memorable and deliver best-in-class customer service to set our destination apart.

MOST INFLUENCED IN MY CAREER BY

I was blessed early in my career to work for Herb Kelleher, [co-founder and former CEO] of Southwest Airlines. He was a disrupter in the airline industry, and as a CEO he empowered every employee. He knew the names of everyone that worked for the company, and was great at articulating his vision. I was in marketing, and I worked with some amazing minds. What impressed me the most was his gift of driving us all to be our best, and his positive energy was contagious.

WHAT I LEARNED 

To always give 110 percent when you show up to work. How you treat people is what they will remember. Bring your best self to work, which creates a great culture. The culture he created was to work hard and have fun, and in doing so we grew to be No. 1 in customer service. I have taken that experience with me throughout my career.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT MY JOB

Dallas is my hometown, and I work with a passionate team, led by Phillip Jones. Under his leadership, I have the support to be innovative with incredible partners. I love driving into downtown and seeing the city evolve before my eyes. This city is dynamic and entrepreneurial, and it is exciting to see what is planned over the next decade.

MY NEXT BIG CAREER GOAL

To be a change maker in my industry. Working for Disney was a dream come true, and felt like a master class in customer service. I turned 50 this year, and I took stock of what my career has meant to me. I have always set high goals for myself, and with the support of my family, I have been able to achieve them. I want to model success for my boys, showing them that hard work, taking risks, and perseverance do pay off.

MY ADVICE FOR YOUNG MEETING PROFESSIONALS

To be passionate about your job and the paths that you take. Get involved in your industry organizations, and volunteer. Those relationships will follow you throughout your career. I could not have achieved my goals without those special friendships. I am thankful and inspired by those individuals that have helped my career along the way.

 

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.