In the last Tourism Talk blog post of 2020, we asked the GRCVB staff to reflect on 2020 and share the lessons they have learned, especially as related to tourism and the work we all do. You can read their responses here.

Now in this first blog post of 2021, we asked them an opposite question and we would ask you, too—what are you most optimistic about in 2021?


Gray Henderson, CGSP®
I don’t think anyone expects events to come back in the same way they were in the past, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Amidst all of the negative impacts these past nine months have brought to our industry, they have also provided us the luxury of taking time to revisit some of the planning processes from a more vigilant perspective, allowing us the ability to improve things that we didn’t have time to notice in the previously fast-paced reality of the events world. I am optimistic that, as larger events begin to return, more attention will be focused on the safety and well-being of each attendee, and new/better ways of engaging attendees will be implemented on a broader level. I believe that, when events return, attendees will notice the improvements this “time-off” has afforded our industry.

Marc Dooner
I look forward to talking with planners about booking meetings and events here in Wake County! I am optimistic [and eager] to be physically around people in a safe setting—with masks or without, inside or outside—as conditions safely permit.

Kathryn Hollomon
I am optimistic about the big return of live events in 2021, even though we do have small meetings happening now. It might be a little different with the hybrid component or less attendees, but there will still be more people meeting.

Jason Philbeck, CSEE
Looking forward to better days ahead in 2021. Optimism and hope for the tourism industry as things begin to recover, especially as the pent-up demand for travel increases and people feel safer and more comfortable attending events.

Stephen Jackson, CMP
I’m very hopeful that the COVID vaccine allows meetings to return to normal. In addition, as a salesperson, I sell better face to face, so I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed that the GRCVB budget improves so that we can return to travel.

Kessa Stevens, CGSP®
I’m optimistic that business and leisure travel will resume at some point, and continue to grow through 2021, and that I'll be able to help those visitors in person (safely!) in the VIC with new health barriers and sanitary/disinfecting precautions in place.

Scott Dupree
I’m cautiously optimistic, maybe better described as “hopeful,” that our industry and our nation can return to a “new normal” in 2021. For our industry in particular, this would mean that perhaps people will reach a certain level of comfort and confidence that they can travel and attend events and resume their lives without fear and anxiety.

Karen DeSollar
I literally imagine what travel and tourism will look like in late spring and summer, and I think people are going to return with a vengeance. Everyone is so tired of not being able to travel confidently that once the “all-clear” sounds, hotels, restaurants, attractions and other businesses will rebound in a big way.

Julie Brakenbury, CGSP®
I am most optimistic that events will return midyear. With the advent of the vaccine, planners are becoming more positive about planning forward. The challenge is going to be: how quickly the public can receive the vaccine, how widely it’s accepted and, with that, how quickly attendees will feel confident about traveling and gathering in large numbers. We do feel like “large numbers” are a ways off yet and anticipate that the first wave of events held will most likely be hybrid. But, some attendees/visitors is much much better than none. The year 2021 will still have its challenges, though it should be a better year overall from 2020.

Andrew Baker
I can’t wait to help get people excited about our new restaurants and attractions that had the courage to open during 2020!

Loretta Yingling, CMP
I’m most optimistic that we will all be able to get back to meeting in person again in 2021!  I look forward to seeing all local businesses begin to thrive again as a result of meetings returning, as well as seeing our partner friends who have been furloughed returning to their jobs!

Nicole Keshler
I am hopeful that, by summer, we will be on the right side of this trying time. Many groups are waiting until summer to make decisions about their future events, so by then hopefully we are able to help our clients get things back on track. The good news is that we have made many great connections with meeting planners while attending virtual tradeshows, and I look forward to getting to know them better.

Jonathan Freeze, CDME
Now that delivery of coronavirus vaccines is clearer, I am looking forward to the restoration of consumer confidence in travel that surely will come from vaccinations, then to being able to respond to all the pent-up visitor demand in ways closer to our normal DMO work. Despite the many health and safety procedures and protocols our industries have put into place (a lot of unprecedented, hard work), vaccinations are probably the biggest harbinger of healthier tourism here again!

Paula McChristian, CGFM
Excited to continue to work with one of the greatest CVB teams in the country. The year 2021 will still have its challenges, but we will meet those challenges, just like we did in 2020, with resiliency and a can-do attitude.

Dennis Edwards
I’m optimistic that the majority of the population will have taken the vaccine and people will once again feel comfortable to travel by mid-2021.

Photo by Unsplash/Dayne Tomkin