South Graduate Starts Dream Job with Visit Mobile
Posted on December 19, 2023 by Acacia Stanley
Before graduating with her bachelor’s in hospitality and tourism management, Trinity Walker worked hard to build a portfolio of connections that led to a dream job at Visit Mobile.
Trinity Walker grew up in a military household and lived in California and Ohio before moving to Mobile when she was 13 years old. Walker attended Baker High School, served as an ambassador for the City of Mobile, and worked with the Oakleigh House Museum. She now works full time as the partnership coordinator for Visit Mobile.
“I am honored to now work for Mobile’s only destination marketing organization. I had been following Visit Mobile’s work closely since high school and had gotten glimpses of them at certain events while working in the hospitality and tourism industry. I always thought what they did was really interesting.”
When Walker started her freshman year at the University of South Alabama, she was focused on building connections to campus through memberships in many student organizations, including leadership roles in Chi Omega as a career and personal development assistant, director of programming and as secretary. She also served as secretary for the Mortar Board National Honor Society.
“My leadership roles in Chi Omega allowed me to connect sisters with career tools. As the director of programming, I helped oversee all event planning for the entire chapter, and I was in charge of the cardinal cabinet, which does all of the events.”
Walker majored in hospitality and tourism management and served as a member of the Hospitality Club and Hospitality Ambassadors.
“Hospitality Club was more of a social group. It was designed to create a community for hospitality majors. As a hospitality ambassador, I would go to USA Day and talk to potential students about our program and what it offers. I liked doing those events because I remembered what it was like to be a new student who didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. It was nice being able to talk to them and put any of their unease to rest.”
During her sophomore year, Walker wrote an article for Darley Newman, the creator of “Travels with Darley,” a series on PBS during. As a result, she was offered a remote internship opportunity with Gourmet Voyages, a company based out of San Bernardino, California.
“I worked remotely and did a lot of travel writing for Cathy Moha. I wrote about destinations, helped with itinerary planning, and had the opportunity to attend meetings with industry professionals from around the world. I also helped with marketing campaigns. I would go to locations around Mobile and do Instagram takeovers to help connect the company with an audience that was a little bit younger because their demographic was a little bit older, and they were wanting to diversify that.”
During her senior year, Walker was selected as one of only six students to be a part of the USS Alabama Crewmate Program. The program offered Walker the opportunity to volunteer at events to promote the Battleship Memorial Park, City of Mobile and State of Alabama. In addition to local events, the crewmates received scholarship funds each year amounting to $13,500.
“The program gave me the opportunity to attend many events put on by Battleship Memorial Park and larger city events, including the Reese’s Senior Bowl. I met a lot of veterans through the program, and it was an incredibly humbling experience, especially during the Veterans Day program or the 9/11 Memorial event. Meeting people and hearing their stories showed me why people are so passionate about America and Mobile, specifically.”
While serving as a crewmate, Walker had the opportunity to meet a gentleman who helped in the efforts to bring USS Alabama to Mobile.
“I had a really cool moment as a crewmate. An older gentleman came up to my group while we were working, and he pulled out this old, laminated card. He said ‘this is proof that I donated coins in the effort to bring the battleship to Mobile.’ When he was a child, he donated all the coins he had to the effort, and this was his verification that he did it. He never stopped carrying that around with him. Meeting him and seeing the card in person felt like seeing a very tangible connection to the founding of the park.”
Before graduating from South in May 2023, Walker also had the opportunity to participate in a hospitality and tourism study abroad trip to Perugia, Italy.
“My group toured the Sina Brufani Hotel, Perugia’s only five-star hotel, and other luxury hotels. We got to witness chefs and see how they operate. To see the industry in an international context was an eye-opening experience for me. At that point, I had barely seen it in an American context because COVID-19 had set everything back so much. Getting to see things in full swing again, in Italy of all places, was really encouraging for us.”
While staying at the Sina Brufani, Walker was able to visit the Cathedral, the Fontana Maggiore fountain, the National Gallery and Corso Vannucci. The group also explored Umbria, the city around the hotel, and took weekend trips to Positano, Venice and Florence.
Life after Graduation
Walker served in her first full-time hospitality and tourism job from May to October 2023 as a concierge in the Disney College Program in Orlando. The program is an initiative by Disney that seeks to employ participants from around the world to gain on-the-job experience.
“Right after I graduated, I worked as a front desk concierge at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. You never knew what you were getting into each day, and I loved having the opportunity to create magical moments for people. I got to see guests’ trips from start to finish. I checked them in and checked them out and asked how everything went. They would come down at like 11 o’clock and ask ‘ok, I don’t know which ride to go on first at Magic Kingdom tomorrow,’ and I got to talk to them about that. I had a lot of fun.”
While working at Disney, Walker never lost touch with the lessons she learned at South.
“The moment I got to Disney, and I had my first shift on the desk, I just kept hearing Amanda Donaldson’s voice in my ear. She was one of my professor’s from the hospitality department, and she used to tell us stories about when she worked in hotels, catering and just hospitality in general. She would always tell us, ‘each day will look different. You never know what to expect. You have to be humble and be willing to do jobs that no one else wants to do. If you see a spill in the lobby, and you're able, then you clean it up instead of calling a custodian.’
This was meant to teach us about being a team player and realizing how to appreciate everyone that works around us. Every day I would hear her in my ear when I was at work, and she continues to inspire me even though I’m not one of her students anymore.”
Starting The Dream Job
Following the end of the program at Disney, Walker came back to Mobile to start a new job at Visit Mobile.
“I was looking for opportunities back in Mobile for when my program ended, and I saw that Visit Mobile was hiring a partnership coordinator.”
Before applying, Walker remembered a moment where her career started to come full circle.
“A few months after I wrote the article for Darley Newman in my sophomore year, I met David Clark, who is the president and CEO of Visit Mobile, at a USS Alabama crewmate event. He let me know that he had read my article and how much he liked my work. After that, I knew I wanted to work for Visit Mobile.”
While Walker was confident in her qualifications for being hired and knew that she had made an impression on Clark, she reached out to Amanda Donaldson, her professor at South, to help make her name stand out among the applicants.
“When it came time for me to start my application for Visit Mobile, I reached out to Amanda and let her know that I was looking at the partnership position. She gave me a recommendation, and as I said, it’s all about who you know in the industry. I strongly believe her recommendation helped me stand out as not just another applicant. She helped them see that I was someone tangible, that they would want to talk to, and now I have this opportunity.”
Walker is glad to be back home in Mobile.
“Visit Mobile works hard to cultivate a community of businesses in Mobile and beyond. We have partnered with businesses as far as the Eastern Shore to be sure that they have the resources for success in our city. We refer large convention events to them and try to promote them first on our website. Mobile.org gets about 1.6 to 2 million hits per year, and being a partner with Visit Mobile gives businesses the chance to take part in the marketing aspect of what we do. It’s really good for businesses to get their name far beyond Mobile.”
In addition to marketing opportunities, Visit Mobile also helps local businesses through professional development courses known as the Tourism Ambassador Program, or TAP.
“TAP allows us to teach people who are both in the tourism industry or who are just interested in learning more about how tourism impacts the city of Mobile. We show our students around the city, including some popular attractions, tell them about Mobile history, and we give them the opportunity to go out and experience several large attractions for themselves. The key takeaway that we hope all students leave with is a sense of what they enjoyed in the city and what could use improvement. Our students become a kind of active voice in how we work to keep our tourism scene dynamic. We take their input and their consideration, and we give that back to our partners. We let them know what our students noticed the most, and we make suggestions on how they can work to better accommodate these tourist attractions to a changing demographic.”
While the TAP program was on hold during the height of the pandemic, the program is now back on track.
“We recently began launching things up again, and we are back into full swing. We just finished our fall TAP class, and my favorite part was attending the students’ graduation and hearing everything they took away from the program. They had an in-depth round table discussion and expressed all of the things that they gathered and noticed during their time with us.”
Businesses that are local to Mobile can all take advantage of the opportunities presented by Visit Mobile.
“Typically, when we partner with a business, they have been recommended to us by another business that is already a partner or we have noticed what they have been doing in the community. If that happens, then we usually reach out to see if they want to join with what we are doing. There is an annual partnership fee that businesses are required to pay once they are a member. They then have all exclusive access to the partnership and everything therein.”
Mobile is a special place for Walker, and she enjoys expressing the importance of the city.
“The single most important thing that Mobile has to offer is its rich cultural diversity. One of the best things that I learned about after coming to Mobile was the history of Mardi Gras. This is a celebration that is in some ways bigger than Christmas, and I love all of the aspects of it from around the world that came into this one event in the southernmost point of Alabama. I think it’s fantastic, and there is something here for everybody.”
Walker also likes to share the story of Mobile’s six flags.
“I find things about the history of Mobile very interesting, such as the story of why we have six flags. Meeting people from all over the world that come to Mobile gives me the opportunity to share that history with others.
Now with things like the Africatown Heritage House, we are working hard to educate the world on our history, both the good and the bad parts. We are striving to teach future generations on how to be more accepting and about historical education. For me, that is really important.”
Plans for the Future
While learning about the tourism industry, Walker developed a devotion to recognizing trends among younger travel demographics.
“We are seeing an interesting shift right now in the travel industry where millennials are starting to travel more. It is interesting to see their travel trends, especially the rise of ‘dupe’ travel locations that are big on platforms like TikTok. That is when people travel somewhere that feels like somewhere else. For instance, people will want to go somewhere like Mykonos, which is very expensive, but instead they will go to another Greek city that is lesser known, much cheaper, and not flooded with tourists. This type of travel offers the advantages of not spending as much money and dealing less with large crowds but still visiting similar locations to well-known travel locations.”
In addition to her interest in studying the trends of younger travelers, Walker enjoys the high degree of human interaction that goes along with her job.
“The reason why I like the hospitality industry so much is because it is so people facing, and I am a huge people person. I love the relationships that you get to cultivate in this industry, and they matter a lot to me. It really is all about who you know, and the hospitality industry in Mobile is just so close-knit. I can’t wait to continue delving into that and seeing where it takes me.”
While Walker is happy that she has started a new position at her dream job, she is always open to learning new things and plans to continue expanding her experiences in the future.
“If you plan too strictly for yourself, then you are going to hit a wall. Life is very dynamic, it’s very fluid, and creating these rigid plans for yourself is not always feasible. That does not mean to not have goals or ambitions, but having strict timelines can set you up to be disappointed in yourself when you are less focused on what you do have rather than what you want to have. The best goal you can have for yourself is to understand that life is going to change and to learn that some things are going to have to roll off our backs in the process of becoming who we want to be. No matter how old you get, we are still all just figuring life out as it comes.”
Walker hopes to one day pursue a master’s in creative writing at South.
“At this time, I feel blessed to be living in the goals that I set for myself previously. A big goal of mine was to work for Visit Mobile, and I just got to that place in my life. I am also working on extending a short story that I wrote in a creative writing course that I took while I was at South, and I have plans to finish writing a book that I began while I was a student. I love to write, and a goal of mine for the future is to be published in the next few years, ideally.”
No matter where she goes in the future, Walker remains committed to carrying lessons, connections, and memories that she cultivated at South with her.
“South has shaped a large part of my professional life now beyond the hospitality department. Things I learned in my leadership roles from clubs and organizations also helped me. Being in leadership in Chi Omega provided lifelong connections to my sisters and showed me that I was capable of being a leader. The confidence that I learned then is something that I carry with me in the workforce now, and I think that it is so important for young women in an industry that is typically dominated by an older demographic. It helps empower me, and I try to remember that everyday is an opportunity to get better at what I do.”