Kindra Fry, new president and CEO of the Bryan-College Station CVB, wasn’t looking for a promotion. The opportunity came out of left field. After working for the Bryan-College Station CVB for 14 years, Fry stepped up on an interim basis at first. The move to the top, an opportunity she hadn’t been looking for, became official earlier this year. It was ultimately Fry’s love for Bryan-College Station, passion for the hospitality industry and her dedication to her team that inspired the move. We spoke to Fry about the transition and why people need to rethink Bryan-College Station as so much more than a college town.
How did you get your start with Bryan-College Station CVB?
I started on December 1, 2004, as the sports marketing manager, so I came in really just managing that department for them and I think I had lived there since the middle of October that year. It was a quick start.
Was it a goal for you to try to climb the ladder?
Honestly, when I started out, I did not have plans to be a president or CEO of a CVB. My plans were really to stay more on the sports side, maybe down the road be an executive director of a sports commission and really hone in on that side of things. But here in BCS—this past December marks my 14th year with the organization—I’ve been learning more about the CVB and meetings side and was able to really be hands on there. And as I worked up through the sports side and the director of group sales, which included sports and conventions, and then onto vice president and now where I am today, I learned very quickly how much I love the industry as a whole—not just sports.
Do you have any initiatives you’re looking to implement in your first year?
I think for us in our community, one of the biggest things we were lacking—and even when I served [as president/CEO] in the interim for seven months—is communication. So in that seven-month period, I took the opportunity to listen to our funding partners--and because we are two cities, we have two city governments--and ask what they were in need of. They’re investing us and they needed to know, in a nutshell, what their money was going toward. From there, it was opening up to more of the community associations and finding out what they really wanted and needed from us to help out the community.
What can people expect from BCS other than Texas A&M?
Everyone knows Texas A&M and we’re trying to change that perception. Our focus, on the meetings side especially, is to bring in more people by doing more site visits and more FAM tours to show people a more cool, upscale side. It’s not just about Texas A&M, it’s about The Stella, The Atlas development that’s in the heart of the beautiful Jack Nicklaus Golf Course or at The Georgian Century Square or in the Cavalry Court. Those are our newest boutique hotels that are booming with shops and restaurants and other entertainment.
As your responsibilities shift over to general leadership, how do you plan to stay involved with sports?
I’m still pretty involved because I’m the incoming chair for NASC. I’ll take that chairmanship over in April. I will always be passionate about sports because that’s where I started. That’s the little spark that started the fire for me in the hospitality industry. I think I’ll always have my foot right through the door, so to speak, for sports. It’s a big piece of this community and it’s a big piece of what we do, but my goal is to have the same passion for the meetings market as I do for the sports market.
The meetings industry is fairly transient. What do you attribute to staying at one organization for such a long time?
Texas A&M has this thing where they talk about how “from the inside out, you can’t explain it, but from outside looking in, you don’t understand it” and I would agree. When I first came, I was like, “Where am I? What’s going on?” The one thing that stood out the most when I first moved here was everyone in this community was genuinely—and still is— friendly and hospitable. Once you find something that makes you so happy, you don’t want to leave it.
Are there any quirks that make Bryan-College Station really special?
Oh man, I could probably go on about this forever. Our downtown area is in Bryan and it’s vibrant and thriving due to all the revitalization. That area is all locally owned businesses and restaurants so when people come we always send them there. I think what’s really cool about it is that we are two cities, but as a visitor you can’t tell the difference. They’re both different, which is what’s really cool. College Station doesn’t have a downtown area so we send them to Bryan. You can get from the very north of Bryan to the very south of College Station in 10 minutes.
What does Bryan-College Station have to offer to events?
When you’re in some of the bigger cities, you see that they can host huge events such as a Super Bowl or something similar. But when you come to a city of our size, mid-market or smaller, your event is considered a Super Bowl event to us. That’s one of the things that we pride ourselves on. We try to make these events a Super Bowl, especially on the sports side. It’s the same thing with conventions and meetings. Your convention and meeting is major to our community, you won’t get lost here like you would in a bigger city. When you are here, you are someone in this community.
Are there any new hotels or other venue developments in the works that will be particularly attractive to planners?
We have The Stella, Cavalry Court, The George and [Texas A&M] is in the midst of building a hotel with 35,000 square feet of meeting space in the middle of campus. It’s directly across from one of the venues we have access to in terms of meeting spaces. That will be finished in August or September 2018, but the goal is prior to football season.
Finally, if you had to craft a one-minute elevator pitch on why someone should plan their next trip to Bryan-College Station, what would it be?
Due to the unique facilities and opportunities that we have available in Bryan College Station, you’re going to have an experience unlike anywhere else. We, at the BCS CVB, are going to roll out the maroon carpet so that you feel like you’re the only event that’s taking place in our community