Chris Chapman on Ridgeland tourism

Chris Chapman comes to Ridgeland Tourism Commission, after gaining 30 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry of Mississippi. She will serve as executive director. Chapman earned a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University. The Forest native is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) through the Convention Industry Council, serves on the Mississippi Tourism Association board and holds a certification in Convention Marketing (CCM) through the International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus. Most recently, she has acted as president of Chapman Meeting Professionals, LLC, which specializes in consulting for all phases of meeting and event planning, as well as meeting market sales development and destination management goals. Chapman recently spoke with Sun Reporter Nikki Rowell about transitioning into her new position.


What brought you to this area?

“When I graduated from Mississippi State University, my first job was as assistant director of marketing at Metro Center Mall. They had me come on board, and I came in to try to get people out to shop at the mall. I came here to Jackson in 1980, and I never left. It was my first entry into tourism.”


What do you do for the Ridgeland Tourism Commission?

“This is my first week, but as executive director, my responsibility here is to promote the goals and objectives of the commission. I want to ensure the success of the Ridgeland Tourism Commission and growth of the local tourism industry in Ridgeland. I also hope to bring return on investment to our partners. I am responsible for planning, development and implementation of marketing strategies and increased visitation to Ridgeland.”


Why did you choose to bring your expertise to the City of Ridgeland?

“I worked for Mississippi Development Authority in the international and domestic trade division. In working with the State of Mississippi, I worked closely with the City of Ridgeland with it being here in the center of the state. And in living in Ridgeland for seven to eight years, I’ve come to love Ridgeland as my city and as a tourism destination. I thought it would be advantageous to devote my work to my area. It is a great opportunity to be right here at home and direct visitors to so much that we have to offer. We do promote that Ridgeland is an inside outside community. We are a huge cycling destination, we are a waterfront destination and we have been named Mississippi’s healthiest hometown. A lot of that is due to the outdoor opportunities we have. Indoors, we have a myriad of restaurants and art and the only Mississippi Crafts Center is located right here in Ridgeland. Those are huge advantages in the marketplace for us and attract visitors to Ridgeland.”


What does your day-to-day look like and what sort of work you will do for the tourism commission?

“It is kind of one of those where there is never an end to the day, there’s always something going on. Our office is a visitor’s venter, so visitors can come see us and pick up information about all of our parks, restaurants, hotels. Where to eat, where to stay, where to shop.”


What does it mean to be a Certified Meeting Professional?

“Certified Meeting Professional is a registered trademark. It is a designation that is acquired through experience and testing. It’s a process that you go through that requires educational study. It takes you to a level that allows you to make proper decisions in management. The division liaison council organizes this designation. It has been an integral part of my continuing education since I left Mississippi State.”


How will that aid you in this position?

“Due to the fact that Ridgeland is becoming a meeting destination, now that the conference center is slated to be built here, I can use that that I have to offer training for our partners that I might not have been able to actively do previously. I hope also to be of assistance when that facility is being built. I have been actively recruited for facilities that have been built across the state. At the time, those resources at the state are what these developers would utilize, like me. I would just be using those skills to help in any way that I can.”


As executive director, what do you hope to accomplish in the city of Ridgeland?

“In the role as executive director, I believe that I have to motivate our employees, the people who are working to bring people into Ridgeland every day. I will also work to empower partners to know that we are helping to promote them in any way we can. We have 400 new hotel rooms slated for Ridgeland in the next couple of years. We have a rate of responsibility to get out and sell Ridgeland to visitors. All of those, combined along with the regular duties of executive director, such as overseeing an annual marketing plan and strategic plan. There are a lot of moving parts in this position, but managing that is something that I am accustomed to.”


After 30 years in the tourism industry, what are some key things you’ve learned from that experience?

“Never take a visitor for granted. You are always striving to make the products better. Don’t ever say you know it all. This industry changes daily. We have to constantly change with technology and with what visitors want. Visitors’ tastes change, and we have to change with that. We have to constantly evolve with what people are looking for. Visitors now don’t want to just see, they want to taste, they want to experience, they want to be part of the plan. The culinary market is a big market for Ridgeland. They want to taste new food and experience something they have not experienced.”


In what ways do you serve on the Mississippi Tourism Association Board?

“I am a board member representing my area, which is the capital city region. The board is divided up into five regions, and there are a certain number of representatives for each region. Through that, I hope to garner as much information about tourism and what our state is doing to support tourism in order to benefit Ridgeland and see that Ridgeland gets their share of visitation.”


We are fortunate to attend a small church with a tight-knit congregation. Our children’s committee hosts a baby shower for each expectant family in our church and invites the entire congregation.