President and CEO, Virginia Tourism Corp., Richmond
Rita McClenny, who grew up on a Southampton County farm, has always been an advocate for nature and a believer in the state’s famed 54-year-old tourism motto, “Virginia is for Lovers.” As head of the Virginia Tourism Corp., she proudly represents the state and all of its tourism offerings.
“I grew up always wanting to contribute and be of service,” she says. “And the work that we do at Virginia Tourism is all about that, because we’re helping communities to become vibrant. That really impacts the citizenry, as well as companies that come in for economic development.”
Before joining the state agency in 2012, McClenny had a high-profile 21-year tenure as director of the Virginia Film Office, which saw her promoting the state to big-name Hollywood directors and producers.
McClenny was recognized last year by Richmond Region Tourism with the Chairman’s Award and has served on several tourism-related boards, including the U.S. Travel Association, the National Council of State Tourism Directors and the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association. She’s also involved with other professional organizations ranging from the Aerospace Advisory Council to the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation.
For women who aspire to leadership in the tourism industry, McClenny says, there is a wide spectrum of opportunities, from owning a hotel to specializing in customer services. The industry is “ever-growing,” she says. “We see that there’s a bright future for the industry because people will always want to go on vacation, to learn.”