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OWENS: Saying goodbye to tourism powerhouse Fredia Brady

This week, I found out that Savannah will be saying goodbye to a powerhouse in the tourism community.

Of course, we’re sad to see her go, but excited for Fredia Brady’s next opportunity as General Manager of the Wilmington Convention Center in North Carolina.

If you don’t know Fredia, then let me tell you the story of her rise to the top.

She started her career in hospitality and tourism by chance. After graduating from Beach High School, her father asked, what’s next?

She saw an ad for a hospitality management program at Draughon’s Practical Business College (now South University) here in Savannah and quickly told her father, “that’s what I want to do.”

Born in Valdosta, as the youngest of four, she had been traveling with her military family her whole life. In those experiences, she learned she liked people and liked to travel.

While she earned her associates degree from Draughon’s, she interned at Holiday Inn in Midtown.

“Working at the front desk was a fun challenge and where everyone should start because customer service complaints build your hospitality foundation. You learn that the way you treat people can make or break someone’s day,” said Brady when we were reflecting on her start in the tourism community.

After she graduated, she volunteered every Friday at the Welcome Center on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard where she would stuff envelopes for people who had requested a packet of information about traveling to Savannah. While she was volunteering, she met the wife of the general manager of the Hilton DeSoto.

That connection led to a job as a sales assistant, and she loved her new role of working with people. And this is where Fredia’s story is like so many other success stories in tourism. She looked around at her post and thought, I think I can do more.

She marched into the general manager’s office and proclaimed, “I’d like to be a sales manager.”

That general manager saw in her the kindness she had with people, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to learn. He started her on a training program that was designed to teach her every aspect of the hotel’s operation, starting with housekeeping.

As she was working her way up, she married the love of her life, had two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. She moved from Hilton to Marriott to Hyatt, all the while gaining valuable, on-the-job training, reaping the rewards of traveling with her family.

Even now, it was easy for her to see how this life in tourism had garnered her a life filled with more prosperity that her parents had known.

Just before the Savannah International Trade &Convention Center was slated to open, Fredia was tapped by SMG, the company that managed the building, to be the director of sales and marketing in March 1999. During her career with SMG, Fredia was promoted to senior regional director of sales and marketing, and she earned her degree in business administration from Brewton Parker College.

She has been the only one in that post, and this is where we say goodbye— but not before we acknowledge the lasting legacy and celebrate her many accomplishments.

She just finished a convention that she helped bring to town. That one convention brought in $19 million of outside spending to Savannah. “Its not just about getting a signed contract. It’s what that contract means to everyone—people come to town, spend their money, a full convention center means people have jobs,” added Fredia.

Even in all that she accomplished in her tenure in Savannah, she still humbly thanks all those who have gone before her, paved the way, and trained her with the skills she needed to succeed.

This is one of the many reasons that we will miss Fredia Brady, but we’re grateful that she leaves a lasting legacy of a workforce that’s next in line to lead.

Michael Owens is president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, the largest non-profit trade organization that supports and represents the tourism community. Contact Owens at michael@tourismleadershipcouncil.com or by calling 912-232-1223.

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