Read through Jeff Homad’s resume, and you might confuse it with somebody’s beach vacation shortlist. Maui, Hawaii; Key West, Florida; Los Angeles; and Hilton Head Island are just a few of the exotic locations he’s called home over the past two decades working in the hospitality industry.
So how did the Ohio-born hotel executive wind his way across the country through sunny, seaside locations to end up at the helm of convention sales and services for Memphis Tourism in landlocked Tennessee?
It’s a long story, one probably best heard over a stack of Homad’s favorite sweet potato pancakes at the Arcade Diner in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. And yes, that’s the very same diner that made Elvis’ peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches famous.
“I graduated with a degree in finance from Central Michigan University,” said Homad in a phone interview in April. “My brother graduated four years earlier, and my parents had given him a trip to Hawaii to visit our Aunt Linda as a graduation present, and so I told them they needed to do the same thing for me. I ended up applying for a job while I was in Maui at the Hyatt, thinking I’d work at the pool as a lifeguard. The same night, they called me back and asked if I wanted to apply for the corporate trainee program instead.”
Homad borrowed a suit coat from Aunt Linda’s next-door neighbor, and the rest is history.
“I was bit by the hospitality bug,” he said, “and I’ve never looked back.”
From there, Homad’s career path meandered from prized locations including Lake George, New York; Scottsdale, Arizona; and eventually, Savannah, Georgia, working for some of the nation’s most elite hotels in sales and marketing positions.
It was in Savannah that Homad made friends with the president of the local CVB. He was a former hotel executive who told Homad that a switch to the destination side of the hospitality business would be a game changer for him.
“As I got older, I started to think more about what I was doing and the impact of the work that I was doing,” Homad said. “When you are on the destination side, you are creating jobs for people and giving people who have jobs more hours and just overall improving so many people’s quality of life.”
Two positions opened up for Homad on the heels of his decision to look into destination sales and marketing: one with Memphis Tourism and one with the CVB in Charleston, South Carolina. Despite his previous ties to the Carolina lowcountry, his time interviewing in Memphis had affected him so much that he couldn’t quite shake the idea of moving there.
Memphis it was.
“It’s the biggest small town you’ve ever experienced,” said Homad. “We moved into a neighborhood of 20 people, and I’m pretty sure we got 20 welcome gifts.”
Homad also found Memphis’ meetings amenities compelling. Beyond the 35,000-square-foot convention center, hundreds of hotel rooms and central location, making it a drivable destination from virtually anywhere in the South or Midwest, Homad notes that Memphis is full of unique flavor.
After talking with Homad, it’s easy to see why Memphis has been ranked a top meeting destination. It’s also easy to understand why the former tropical hotelier is happier than ever working to advance the interests of the city and its people.
Name: Jeff Homad
Title: Vice President of Convention Sales and Services
Organization: Memphis Tourism
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Birthplace: Lakewood, Ohio
Education: BS Finance, Central Michigan University
• Started in hospitality at the Hyatt Regency and Sheraton Hotels Hawaii
• Sales positions in numerous destination hotels, including the Omni Sagamore Resort in upstate New York; the Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona; the Daufuskie Island Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina; the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California; and the Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia
Tips from Jeff Homad
• “Something my pop taught me early on, you will never get a hit if you don’t swing. So swing for the fences.”
• “Be a resource to your clients. Listen hard to their needs and wants. Then share with them how you can benefit them and fulfill their needs and wants.”
• “Make the time to try something new, whether it is a new hobby, a travel destination, meeting new people, exercise — take the leap and do it.”