Fast Facts About Tom White
Tom White is the VP of leisure and convention sales at Visit Mobile in Mobile, Alabama.
Visit Mobile is a destination marketing organization located in Mobile, Alabama. Its primary mission is to promote tourism and attract visitors to the city and its surrounding areas. Visit Mobile engages in various marketing and promotional activities to showcase Mobile’s attractions, events and cultural offerings. Through these efforts, the organization aims to boost tourism, enhance the local economy and showcase the unique experiences available to travelers in the Mobile region.
Birthplace: Nuremberg, Germany
Education: Bachelor’s degree in sales and sales management, Western Governor’s University
Employment History: After spending a decade at Shoe Carnival, White embarked on a career in tourism, which took him to Capital Trailways Charters, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Yedla Hotel Management Company and then Visit Mobile.
Family: White has been married to his wife, Michele, an elementary school teacher, for 20 years. They have three children: Nick, 26; Jack, 15; and Madison, 7.
Hobbies: White loves going to the beach and saltwater fishing. And as a certified sports official, he loves officiating sports, especially lacrosse, football and basketball.
From Germany to Tybee Island
Tom White’s father was an Army helicopter pilot whose career took the family to Nuremberg, Germany, where Tom was born. Though the family had stints in Clarksville, Tennessee, and Miami, they later moved to Tybee Island in Georgia, which White considers his hometown. After high school, White went to college and then straight into retail, spending the next decade as the general manager and later regional manager at Shoe Carnival.
“That experience actually helps me a lot in my current career in hospitality and tourism, because I developed a good understanding of customers and their wants and needs and how to fulfill them,” said White.
After working for a charter bus company for a time, White became head of sales and outreach at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where he stayed for two decades.
“We had people coming in from all over the world to be part of the largest attraction in the state of Alabama,” said White. “That really helped on a national and global level of my career, because we did all kinds of different things, and the diversity of managing all those sales and outreach efforts helped me grow.”
Twenty-five percent of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s business was international, and their popular weeklong space camps attracted 50,000 children each year. White helped organize special events, including gatherings and dinners for anywhere between 100 and 900 guests.
When COVID hit and everything shut down, White was faced with an important decision.
White had been at his job for 20 years, and though he says that the time flew by, he knew he was ready to take on a new challenge.
“I went to work for a hotel management company — whose corporate office was based in Huntsville — as their corporate marketing director,” said White. “I learned from the inside a lot about the lodging side of travel and tourism and how it affected conventions.”
The patchwork of White’s career — retail sales and management, working for a motorcoach company, working within a highly popular attraction drawing thousands of visitors and working with hotels — were all preparation for the next step. The space center allowed him to work with food and beverage directors to understand how those pieces work during a convention; he has seen the set up and tear down of major events; and he had worked plenty of after-hours shifts. The motorcoach company helped him understand transportation, and the hotel helped him understand the workings of room blocks and room rates.
“I’ve kind of done it all! I like the travel and tourism industry and I like the people in it,” said White. “I like the challenge and I like to see the growth of something. I’m good at it. Once you find what you like and what you’re good at, you just need to run with it.”
Gateway to the Gulf
Earlier this year, White accepted an offer to join Visit Mobile as the vice president of leisure and convention sales. He moved his family from Huntsville to the southernmost part of Alabama.
“Each of my experiences helped me to do the next job better,” said White. “I had been considering the possibility of moving to a new city prior to coming here, but I hadn’t found a destination that fit my needs that had the type of opportunity I was looking for. Then the Visit Mobile opportunity came along, and it was a combination of exactly the job I wanted to do — managing and selling meetings and conventions as well as leisure group tourism — and the potential growth of the city, which is very exciting.”
Change is on the horizon in Mobile. Their airport is being torn down and a new airport is being built near the downtown area; the convention center is being remodeled; and the city is still building on its 300-year history. Among recent developments is the new Africatown Heritage House, which is now open and is drawing a lot of visitors.
“People haven’t recognized the greatness of what Mobile is,” said White. “It has a historic feel with live oak trees and waterways. It very much reminds me of my hometown on Tybee Island. When I was interviewing, we talked for like an hour just about how great it is living in Mobile — we hadn’t even talked about the job yet. There’s just so much to Mobile — it really is incredible.”