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Hospitality Trailblazer Angela Val Returns 'Home' As 1st Black CEO of Visit Philadelphia

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  Women In Power

17 years ago, Angela Val started her career at VISIT PHILADELPHIA® as an executive assistant. She is now CEO and President.

She propels Philadelphia's tourism sector and "takes the organization to new heights of awareness among different regional, driver market, and national audiences" in her capacity.

Philadelphia's tourist sector helps out small businesses in the community, makes jobs, and improves the city for its citizens.

As a native of Maryland who moved to Philadelphia for college, Val fell in love with the city. She chose to reside in Philadelphia after receiving her bachelor's degree from Drexel University.

From an executive assistant, Val advanced to the C-suite. She oversaw projects and campaigns like Philly 360, With Art Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Overnight Hotel Package.

Angela Val had seen herself eventually relocating to a big metropolis while growing up in Rockville, Maryland.

Val said to Aldia News in an interview that she has "always been extremely drawn to big cities." “Life has always to me been symbolized by all the beautiful lights that appear in the evening as the sun sets.”

Val truly wanted to be a part of that, so when it came time to apply to colleges, she specifically looked for universities in major cities. In the end, she decided on Philadelphia's Drexel University. She thought Philadelphia would be the ideal place to begin her next chapter.

It still had a hometown vibe and was in the east coast city where she had grown up, she reflected. Despite this, the metropolis and the unfamiliar surroundings initially made Val feel afraid and overpowered.

It took her some time to adapt, despite the fact that she frequently visited Washington, DC when she was younger. She eventually, however, came to appreciate Philadelphia, describing it as "like a small gem between two rivers," and considered it to be extremely charming.

Almost three decades later, Val has made an everlasting impression on the community she has called home.

A Clear Choice

Val studied tourism and hospitality while attending Drexel. Her choice was motivated by the fact that her uncle had previously served as the head of a national tourism association in their state.

“That was the first time, in a way, that I realized there was more to the sector than just hotels,” she said.

"Also, when I traveled as a child, it always intrigued me to go to different areas and observe how other people lived and what their towns looked like, as well as what kind of food they ate," she continued.

Managing the Embassy Suites on the recently built parkway, Hospitality Partners was Val's first employer after graduating from Drexel.

She served as a front desk agent, a sales manager, and the director of catering throughout her four years with the organization.

In the field to which she has devoted her professional life, she also started learning and expanding her knowledge.

A Major Ladder Climb

As the organization's first receptionist and Meryl Levitz's assistant, Val joined Visit Philly in 1998, when it was still known as The Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation.

Levitz, who regularly checked in at her prior employment, had always left Val in awe.

Val remembered, "She was running a big show, always had the walkie talkie on her hip, ordering people around, and doing major things in the city.”

She knew she eventually wanted to have the chance to work there after Levitz was named the organization's first president and CEO in 1996. She received the opportunity two years later.

Val advanced through the organization's ranks over her 17-year employment. She was given the promotion to hotel program director after having been a receptionist for a period of four years.

Throughout the majority of her employment, Val served as Visit Philadelphia's vice president of special projects, where she was instrumental in the organization and management of numerous significant events in the city as well as the management of numerous marketing initiatives.

The Republican National Convention in 2000 was held in Philadelphia, and Val was significantly affected by that specific incident.

She credited the RNC with instilling in her a passion for huge city-wide gatherings.

“There is just so much happening, and everyone is happy,” she recalled. “As a result of our collective efforts, we will become recognized on a global and national scale.”

The 2015 World Meeting of Families and the Papal visit were two more significant events that Philadelphia hosted during Val's reign.

A Chance of a Lifetime

Vice President & Chief External Affairs Officer was Val's title during her last year with Visit Philadelphia.

Val was presented with an opportunity to serve as the executive director of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which was scheduled to take place the following year, in the early months of 2015. She was unable to decline the offer.

Val wasn't sure when Philadelphia would have another chance to host a political conference of this magnitude, given that the city had only recently held the RNC.

She thus seized the rare chance with both hands.

Since working on both the Republican and Democratic Conventions is extremely uncommon, she remarked, "the DNC was kind of a dream come true."

Throughout the 2016 DNC, Val was in charge of carrying out a number of the host committee events. As a result of the size of the duty, she believed she would have to leave Philadelphia and find employment in another city if things didn't work out.

However, Val said, "It did work. The Convention went off well, and Philadelphia looked fantastic."

The capacity to highlight a city's citizens to the rest of the globe, in her opinion, is the best part of advertising a place. The experience, however, brought the idea more into focus.

A New Take on Business

The DNC position was a project-based one with a set start and end date, so after the Convention was over, Val had to choose her next professional move.

The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau appointed her as its chief administrative officer in December 2016.

“I went to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau because I wanted to see how business is conducted on the other side,” said Val.

“The Convention and Visitors Bureau concentrates more on travel for corporate meetings and conventions than Visit Philly does on domestic leisure travel.”

Being armed with this new information, in Val's opinion, would help her become a more well-rounded professional in the travel and hospitality sector.

It truly accomplished that goal.

"While I worked at the Bureau, I actually learned a lot about how big conventions visit the city, what they add to the economy, how they view our city, and the convention cycles. Market competition is intense,” Val declared.

She also learnt how the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Visit Philadelphia are comparable.

“Regardless of whether a trip is taken for business or pleasure, the city's attractions draw visitors and tourists, which generates revenue and spurs economic development.”

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