Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Big Picture

Jennifer Miller draws on experience and partnerships to promote Metro Detroit

By Kathy Gibbons

Jennifer Miller at The Belt, an artistic and cultural landmark in Detroit || Photo by Marvin Shaouni

If Jennifer Miller learned one thing during an internship she completed while attending Michigan State University in the late 1980s, it was about hospitality jobs that were a good fit—and those that weren’t. Now manager of domestic tourism at Visit Detroit, Miller says being an intern at what was then the Ann Arbor Inn meant working in every department. It was there where she discovered her love of sales and the front desk.

And what about housekeeping? “I did a stint during the [Ann Arbor Street Art Fair] in the laundry and housekeeping departments, and the hard part about that is you’re down in the basement, no windows, in July. It can get very warm down there, and I realized that was not the place for me.”

Kitchen? “The chef at the hotel wasn’t really sure what to do with a 20-year-old who didn’t have any food and beverage experience, and had me make guacamole from scratch for 350 people. That’s a lot of cases of avocados you cut in half and scoop out. To this day, I can’t look at an avocado the same again.”

Still, it gave her a big-picture view of how it all comes together. Miller went on to work as convention services manager and in sales, joining Visit Detroit in 1999. She was the meetings and events manager before recently assuming her current role promoting Detroit as a destination nationally and around the world.

From her perspective, it shouldn’t be a hard sell. “I think my favorite part [about] my positions over the years is watching the perception of our region change in our clients’ eyes,” she says. “Many clients say they had no idea that Metro Detroit had so much to offer and when they leave, they are now ambassadors for our region.”

Along the way, being able to develop connections across the industry has been key. “Building your network through coworkers you have worked with over the years and at industry chapter meetings like the Michigan Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, the Michigan Society of Association Executives, Michigan’s National Association for Catering & Events, or other industry organizations has really helped me make some lifelong friends. … When something is going haywire, you have a network of people on speed dial who can help you at the last minute,” she says. “Having a great network of partners has been critical.”