January 31, 2023

The Business of Meetings – Episode 151 – Every Seat Matters with Cleo Battle

Today, Eric is joined by Cleo Battle, the President, and CEO of Louisville Tourism and the new Chair of the international board of MPI!

Cleo Battle Biography: 

Cleo Battle, a hospitality industry veteran of nearly 35 years, currently serves as President & CEO of Louisville Tourism. Before coming to Louisville, he spent 12 years as Vice President of Sales & Services of the Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau in Richmond, VA. He held the positions of Director of Sales and Sales Manager at the Richmond CVB.

Battle began his hospitality career in the hotel industry by working for Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn, and Sheraton Hotels. Battle is a native of Denver and a graduate of Metropolitan State University in Denver with a bachelor’s degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management. He earned his Master’s of Business Administration in 1997 from Averett University in Virginia. He is both a Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) and Certified Association Sales Executive (CASE).

Battle’s most recent industry recognition includes Events Industry Council 2020 Social Impact award winner, Business First Louisville’s inaugural Power 50 as well as The Courier-Journal’s 12 People to Watch in 2021.

Battle currently serves on the Meeting Planners International Board of Directors, Kentucky Derby Museum Board of Directors, Louisville Sports Commission Executive Board, LRAA Board, Kentucky State Fair Board, Louisville Zoo Foundation Board, Funds for the Arts Board, and Board Member for Northeast YMCA of Louisville. He is the Past Chair of Destination & Travel Foundation, Destination International Sales & Services Committee, and the Virginia State University Hospitality Department Advisory Board.

Cleo’s journey

Cleo was a college track and field athlete. In his third year, he tore a leg muscle and since he was still undecided about what he would major in, he spoke to a school counselor who suggested going into the field of hotel restaurant management. He began taking classes and also worked as an intern in a hotel. Eventually, he was hired into the management training program for Promise Hotels. That’s when his career took off!

How athletics set Cleo up for success

Learning how to run hurdles gave Cleo adaptability and flexibility and many other skill sets he needed to grow and become successful in his career. Cleo truly understands the importance of having a strong team and learned that you cannot do everything by yourself in business and that you are only as good as the people around you. His old boss from Richmond, Virginia, taught him the key to any successful endeavor lies in hiring well. He used to tell Cleo to hire well, provide good resources, and then get the hell out of the way!


Trust is an essential ingredient for teamwork. People do much better when they work in a professional space where constructive criticism is valued, they can be honest about their thoughts, and where they know their opinions will be respected, regardless of what the leaders ultimately decide to do.

Every seat matters

At staff meetings, Cleo always tells the members of his organization that every seat matters. He wants them to understand that regardless of whether they are the director of sales, a marketing manager, or an administrative assistant, their seat in the organization matters!

Enabling people

Whenever there is a new subject matter, Cleo enables his team by inviting them to share ideas, thoughts and opinions on it.

Cleo’s current position

Even though his current position as President and CEO of Louisville Tourism involves a lot of legislative work and more talk about politics than customers, Cleo maintains the belief it’s vital to stay true to the core mission of Louisville Tourism and bring visitors to the community.


Since the beginning of January, Cleo became the Chair of MPI and serves on its International Board of Directors. He insists on his team having a growth mindset rather than one of recovery.

The cost of doing business has changed

Since the pandemic, the cost of doing business has changed. So a lot of work has to be done on the industry brand to help those outside it see its value, what is being done, why it is important, and how the industry impacts people’s lives.

Getting more people to join the industry

Cleo points out that personnel of hotels, convention centers, museums and attractions, restaurants, and airports cannot work from home. So the industry will need to figure out the right balance between automated and personal services going forward. He believes that the industry must invest in its brand to let more people know why it is such an exciting industry to join.

Appreciation and acknowledgment

Cleo feels that openly acknowledging his staff members and appreciating what they do are the best ways to encourage them to offer customers the best possible service!

Connect with Eric

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Connect with Cleo Battle

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Louisville Tourism


Books mentioned:

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

About the author 

Eric Rozenberg

For two decades, Eric Rozenberg has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and produced conferences in more than 50 countries across diverse industries. His focus is creating meetings that are not only breathtakingly memorable but which bring corporate strategies to life and amplify team motivation/performance.

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