October 31st, 2019

Meet GDP's 2019 Global Planner of the Year: Kim Hester

...an industry veteran who is inspired by helping people make memories and fulfilling their dreams.

Kim Hester is Vice President of Sales at JNR Incorporated. She was named Global DMC Partners' 2019 Global Planner of the Year due to her passion for events and meetings, her customer loyalty to Global DMC Partners, and her dedication to the DMC industry. Kim also serves as a Board Member on Global DMC Partners’ Customer Advisory Board. Although she was on the road and traveling internationally for 22 days this month, Kim still managed to find some time to answer some questions for us so we could gather her thoughts on where our industry is heading, challenges she faces, trends on the horizon, some very helpful travel tips! As an expert world traveler, you definitely don't want to miss out on her travel advice and more below.

Pictured: Erin Rougeux, Shelley Meixell, Kim Hester, Catherine Chaulet

GDP: Why, when, and/or how did you decide to join the meetings industry? 

KH: While growing up in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, I got my first job at 17-years old working the front desk of a resort. From that moment on I was hooked on the hospitality and meeting/incentive industry! I absolutely loved it.  No two days were alike and it was very rewarding to me to be a part of people making memories and fulfilling dreams. After 15 years in the hotel industry, I made the jump to the planner side. I had to learn a lot about all the other program elements - air, DMCs, etc. – but I had a good head start having already dealt with so many related issues on the hotel side. I have now been on the planner side for 30+ years and it has been a wonderful career rich with experiences, challenges and adventures.      

GDP: Where do you see our industry 10 years from now? 

KH: Technology will continue to evolve and change the industry in ways we can’t even imagine yet. But the basic human need to meet and connect face-to-face will not change. And people will always crave travel as a way to be rewarded, broaden their horizons, and enjoy new experiences. Those basics will drive the continued expansion of the industry. New destinations will emerge, infrastructure will improve and we will venture to new places we have only dreamed of in the past. Who knows…maybe space travel will become the hot new trend?!  

GDP: What is your favorite part of your job and why?  

KH: I love discovering new places and then sharing them with my clients. Also, I love seeing the reaction of guests as the program unfolds and they come to understand why the destination is unique and/or memorable. I also like the fact that every day is different. No matter what country I am in, I can look forward to a day of meeting and solving challenges. Over the years, I have built a network of global resources so I am confident I can rely on those partners to help me resolve pretty much anything that comes our way. And I love when a program ends and the client and/or guests say “that was amazing! Expectations were exceeded.”  Then I know I have done my job well.     

GDP: What is the most challenging part of your job? 

KH: Air is by far the biggest challenge. The playing field has been leveled and we are all receiving equally poor service from the airlines. Seats are shrinking, for some cities routes are disappearing, and while those with elite status do get some perks, everyone else is struggling to get through the flight experience intact and preferably with bags.   

GDP: What is your favorite trend in the industry right now?

KH: The emphasis on customized experiential travel. Attendees are no longer just playing golf and going to the spa. They want to get out and see/do the best of each destination and they want to do it their way. I love being a part of designing and executing those special experiences.   

GDP: What do you see as your biggest success so far? 

KH: Having managed 4 SITE Crystal Award programs and receiving the GDP Planner of the Year award.  Being recognized by your peers for a job well done is extremely gratifying. 

GDP: What is the most interesting place you’ve planned a meeting or event? 

KH: I love exotic destinations that offer something for everyone….beautiful scenery, adventure, history and culture, cuisine, shopping, etc.  New Zealand and South Africa both deliver on that front. Attendees absolutely love both places – the surveys after a program in either country are guaranteed to be sky high!   

GDP: What do you never travel without, or what is your best travel tip? 

KH: I never travel without a great set of noise cancelling headphones, super comfy shoes and a healthy dose of patience. Best travel tip: lost luggage is rampant these days due to misconnects and a lot of other factors. PLAN FOR IT. If you are traveling with a companion, put half of your things in their suitcase and vice-versa.  That way if one bag is lost and not the other, you can still function. And, think about what you put in your carry-on. You should have your cosmetics/toiletries and at least enough clothes to get you through a day or two with no bags. I can’t tell you how many people arrive on programs with lost bags and have absolutely nothing to sustain them. It makes for a rough experience that could have been avoided with some thought and planning.    

GDP: What do you enjoy most about working with Global DMC Partners, and why?  

KH: I appreciate that the partners are pre-vetted so I know I am getting a financially sound and competent vendor. And I love knowing that Shelley Meixell has my back. She is quick, responsive and always on top of things. That extra layer of concern and assistance is invaluable.