Karen Trevino, Tourism Tour de Force

top ten amplifiers

orAlmost any career professional will attest to the power of relationships, although few have a story of their usefulness like Karen Trevino’s. Now the president and CEO of North Little Rock Tourism, Trevino has also served as the organization’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, and her previous experience includes stints as a group tour consultant for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and director of operations for the Arkansas Hospitality Association, among many other roles. While her influence can be felt throughout the world of tourism, Trevino’s entry into the industry was, as she described it, a total accident.

“I interviewed for a job with the state, but I didn’t get it,” she said. “Then by chance I got a call from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, asking me to interview for a position with them. It turns out that the person from the other interview took my resume with her to her new position at the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism – one of the strangest things that has happened in my life.”

Even before that, however, the seeds of a career were being planted. With her father in the Air Force, Trevino spent her childhood in places from Spain to North Dakota, but recreational travel wasn’t something her family spent much time on. Born in Russellville — though technically only there “for three days, long enough to be born” — Trevino’s family moved back to Arkansas while she was in high school. Between junior year and senior year, Trevino found himself on the front lines of the hospitality industry with a much more common medium: fast food.

“I graduated when I was 17 and went out on my own pretty soon after that,” she said. “I worked at McDonald’s on McCain Boulevard [in North Little Rock] since I was 15 and I was already a manager at 17, so I just thought I’d be a secretary and work at McDonald’s.

Trevino’s managerial career at the Golden Arches spanned 10 years, during which she held the position of Parks and Tourism. Balancing both professions meant little sleep. Trevino opened the store at five in the morning for breakfast, contacting the state from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and returning to McDonald’s to work until closing. Despite her full plate, her work in North Little Rock would prove to be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with her adopted hometown.

“I’ve always felt like since then, North Little Rock was my home,” she said. “I can not explain. It’s like in all these years of moving around and doing things, I’ve never felt at home anywhere. There was not one thing where I [was] like, ‘Oh, this is where I feel like my heart is,’ but North Little Rock is like that to me.”

Without the means to go to college right out of high school, Trevino took a non-traditional path to her education. It was only after taking the position at NLR Tourism that she received her master’s degree in tourism, in addition to the six different certifications she has earned since then. She considers herself a lifelong learner and greatly values ​​education, whether in the classroom or through lived experience.

Perhaps nothing has been as much of a learning moment, both personally and professionally, as her ordeal with breast cancer 14 years ago. Over the course of two years, Trevino faced radiation, chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, all while working full-time, raising children and still being on track for a master’s degree.

“I soon learned that the world is extremely kind, caring and supportive. It wasn’t a fun experience, but it was certainly a positive experience,” she said. “I think I was quite strong before. I didn’t have much patience. From that experience, I believe it softened me to not think that everything is the end of the world. … I met the most amazing people through that experience, women I never would have met any other way.”

Today, Trevino is recognized throughout the state, region and even internationally for her impressive work raising the bar for tourism in Arkansas. Most recently, during the 50th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in late February, she was inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame, further cementing her status at the top of the industry.

“This recognition has been a lifelong dream,” she said. “Many of my mentors are members of the Tourism Hall of Fame. To be considered alongside those stars of the industry and their caliber makes me very proud. It is very nice to see my efforts over the past 40 years recognized by my peers and the state.”

Trevino has been recognized in other ways as well. She is the first Arkansan to serve as president of the Southeast Tourism Society after being an active participant on the group’s board of directors for 20 years. On the global stage, Trevino is serving this year as president of Skål International USA, an organization with more than 20,000 members in the travel and tourism industry worldwide. Additionally, North Little Rock Tourism was named the 2023 Tourism Office of the Year by the Southeast Tourism Society, an accomplishment Trevino credits to the “fantastic staff.”

“I was completely insulted that we got it because, you know, we’re against Tampa, [Fla.] and places like that, big places,” she said. “I think it’s just because we’ve been operating on a shoestring, and it’s that constant push and looking and trying to expand our offerings and what we can do and doing it a little bit better than before.”

Once someone experiences North Little Rock, she said, they’re often eager to spread the word about what the city has to offer. From the booming downtown Argenta, where NLR Tourism manages the square with all kinds of festivals, events and live music, to classic attractions like the Old Mill and the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, Trevino said, “we have a lot to be proud of .to.”

“Every day, we’re trying to figure out, ‘Well, what can we do about this and how can we help this?'” she said. “We’re not just trying to bring in outsiders from out of state. We need our community to understand who we are and what we’re doing and love our city, because if they love the city, they’re going to share that message with their friends and family.”

Trevino and the tourism office are taking full advantage of every opportunity to show locals and visitors alike everything there is to love about the city. The Southeast Tourism Society will be in Little Rock for its 2024 indoor expo, giving NLR Tourism the opportunity to introduce writers and travel agents, tour operators and others to what awaits just across the river. That doesn’t even mean April’s eclipse, which is bringing travelers from around the country to various spots in the natural state, including North Little Rock.

“These are people who are going to go out and be our ambassadors,” she said. “They will tell people how good it is here and hopefully they and their family and friends will come back.”

When it comes to growing interest in other corners of the state, Trevino described the relationship between the different regions as one of “co-competition.” Tourism and hospitality leaders learn from each other’s strengths to raise Arkansas’ profile across the board. For Trevino, the key that connects it all, from Burns Park to Argenta Plaza, from statewide partnerships to regional and international organizations, is a focus on relationships.

“I know it sounds really basic, but the reason I loved tourism in the first place and why I’m so honored for this hall of fame is because of the people who came before me who laid the foundation for what tourism should be and who it basically started this direction we’re going in,” she said. “When they started to back off … that’s when I realized I had grown because I was becoming a leader and becoming the one people looked up to. It was all those people before and all the people since then and the people I met across the United States and around the world — to me, it’s the people.”

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *