Cleo Battle is the executive vice president of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau in Louisville, Kentucky.
Born: Omaha, Nebraska, but raised primarily in Colorado
Education: B.A., Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colorado; M.B.A., Averett College, Danville, Virginia
Career History: Spent 30 years in the hospitality industry. Began in hotel operations and later shifted to hotel sales at various lodgings in the Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn and Sheraton chains, which prepared him to become a hotel general manager. Later named vice president of sales and services at the Richmond, Virginia, CVB for 12 years before coming to the Louisville CVB.
Family: Married with two sons, ages 27 and 29
Hobbies: Cleo is a self-described gym rat and sports fan who loves to root for Colorado’s pro teams in football, basketball, baseball and hockey.
From Hurdles to Hospitality
When it comes to the professional career of Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau executive vice president Cleo Battle, the track world’s loss has become the hospitality industry’s gain.
Battle had no knowledge or interest whatsoever in the hospitality industry when he was a track athlete at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the early 1980s. When he was unexpectedly injured, and it was strongly suggested that he retire from the sport he loved, the young man was suddenly in need of direction.
“At the time, I was a little more focused on athletics than I was on my education,” said Battle. “But once I got hurt, it was time to get a little more focused on the future.”
Battle decided to transfer to Metropolitan State College in Denver, nearer to his home. He huddled with a counselor who ran through a list of potential careers to see what he might be interested in. Nothing seemed to click. Then the counselor brought up hotel and motel management. “She said that it was a new curriculum, and she would put me in there until I figured out what I wanted to do,” said Battle. “The rest is history, so to speak.”
Battle took the required hospitality classes and thought he was progressing nicely until he realized that he needed 1,300 hours of work in hotels to graduate. Battle had imagined he’d get his degree first and then figure out the hotel part later. “No, it doesn’t work that way, and for me, I’m glad it didn’t work that way,” he said. He took a hotel job and began to learn on his own and from many others, and found that “I was a natural at this.”
Hurdles proved to be quite symbolic for the CVB executive. “I have the hurdles to thank for earning me a track scholarship to get me to college because my parents probably couldn’t afford it at the time, and I also have the hurdles to thank for getting me injured and leading me to the industry in which I work today,” said Battle.