Karen S. Jordan will be one of a handful of women to head a national association after she joins the International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (IACVB) as president and CEO in September. Although Jordan shuns the label of female pioneer in the executive ranks of travel industry associations, she was, she notes, the first woman "to come up through the ranks of a major CVB." That was in Dallas, where she rose from sales manager to president and CEO in just ten years.

Currently executive director of the Austin (TX) Convention & Visitors Bureau, Jordan, 45, is signing a three-year contract with the IACVB. A selection committee chose her from 166 applicants. She will head up the 410-member association late this summer. Strong interpersonal skills helped her case, says George Kirkland, president of the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau. She will direct a staff of 17 people in Washington, DC.

Jordan's immediate goal is to increase IACVB's value to its members through education programs and services such as CINET (a database of meetings histories and future bookings). CVBs, she also says, "are brokers between the customer meeting planners and hotels and other suppliers" and should work closely with such organizations as Meeting Professionals International, the Professional Convention Management Association, and the American Hotel & Motel Association.

"The main thing that meeting planners want from CVBs is to have them know as much as possible" about the meetings they hold. IACVB made an ill-fated move in 1994 with its Central Convention Housing Reservation Service (CHRS) that offered uniform hotel booking procedures around the country for meeting planners. IACVB soon dropped the program due to lack of interest and it was taken over by Anasazi, Inc., a Phoenix-based reservations company. "So many things went wrong," adds Jordan, herself a former hotel executive (with Loews Hotels). "I can't imagine it would be something I would pursue."

Jordan believes that tourism is important to the future of meetings. "The tourism side affects the convention side. A tourism product is a natural draw."