My Experiences in the 30 Under 30 Program

By: Barry Draper
30 Under 30 Class of 2018
DuPage County, Illinois

When I started writing this, I had no clue how to cover it all - from the nervous anticipation waiting for the email to arrive to the sadness I had getting on the plane leaving the Annual Convention. However, we know in destination marketing sometimes your message can get lost in too much copy. So here it is.

The 30 Under 30 program was an incredible experience that shifted my perspective on the industry and will last my entire professional career. Wait - isn’t that what we are all here for in this industry? Is that not one of the top three goals on every destination's checklist? Las Vegas argues your time there will be so amazing you can’t share the details with anyone. (Check) San Diego has hundreds of things guaranteed to put a smile on your face. (Check) Not forgetting that most of my days are spent showing how a visitor can DuMore in DuPage County than almost anywhere in Illinois. (Check - Note the shameless plug!) That is what this program gave to me.

The 30 Under 30 program is defined by each class, and when you bring 30+ type A millennials together for recognition you can expect lots of emails, LinkedIn invitations, tweets, memes, GIFs, etc. My first glimpse was our Twitter Q & A where I revealed to Kristen Pepper (Huntsville CVB) my love for Space Camp since age 10. We also discovered that when Randi Morritt (Aurora CVB) is not being a complete marketing master she is the queen of memes. (I hope she does a breakout session on that at next year's convention). Also, Jonathan Eckelberg (Travel Wisconsin) is the king of destination marketing on Twitter.

I remember during a mixer on day 1, the words of my longtime mentor rang in my head, "What are you going to do with this honor? Besides standing on a stage and receiving an award." This became our mission, to soak up as much as we could from this experience and push to truly make our mark in the industry. #challengeaccepted

From the moment the convention began we gathered to discuss our plans. We deployed almost as an army and used every 30 Under 30 activity to report back to each other. We shared insights from how Richmond, Virginia is making their own mark on LGBT tourism to how Pittsburgh is planning years ahead on its development. Our own Carleigh Dworetzky (Knowland) gave an insightful presentation on convention sales analytics and we were delighted to support and learn from her.

Access to industry veterans and C-Suite executives were some of the most critical moments for me. Our second day included a speed networking lunch where a few C-Suite executives came to meet and share their insights on everything from time management in a department to fostering a culture of development and growth in your organization. One of my favorite moments was watching Brad Dean, President & CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, discuss the devastation of Hurricane Maria and the inspiring message of the tourism-lead recovery. With my mom's family being from Puerto Rico, I was thrilled to have a chance to meet him after his presentation.

Still, we took every opportunity to spend time and share our experiences together. Early mornings with Starbucks and helping the Destinations International Foundation only to be followed by late night chats at the hotel with other 30 Under 30 alumni. There was so much knowledge, laughter and support shared that I cannot quantify in enough words.  Our class did not shy away from a good song and dance moment either which can be seen in the current 30 Under 30 video and even a few Instagram posts.

Since leaving #AC18Anaheim I look at my 30 Under 30 classmates as a source of professional pride and inspiration. We have supported each other in tough patches and even some amazing high times like Jeremiah Cook's (Athens CVB) trip to Greece and Cameron Teske's (Green Bay CVB) work on his new visitor center. Ruida Lu (Tourism Toronto) got to join Eleanor Wilkie (Business Events Cairns & Great Barrier Reef) in Australia and compare travel trends over two continents. Finally, if you are not following Amber Burns (@byamberburns) as she grows her own brand as a lifestyle and travel influencer you are missing so much intelligence & Philly swag! Even more importantly, these have become friends that have given me some unforgettable memories.

I'd like to say thanks again to my 2018 30 Under 30 classmates. The connections I have made with you all are by far my greatest asset from this experience. The ride for us is far from over and I cannot wait to see what the 2019 class brings to the industry. If you are considering applying or know someone you would like to nominate, please click here.

About the Author

Barry Draper
Membership & Services Manager
DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau
Barry's 8 years in the industry includes experience as a Director of Sales with multiple major hotel brands. In DuPage, Barry is solely responsible for membership recruitment, retention and record keeping. Barry also responsible for advertising sales, events and assists with the international market.

When he isn't working, Barry loves to stay involved in arts. Whether it's singing, salsa dancing or attending theater productions in the Chicagoland area, Barry is never too far from a stage.