Randy Thompson: President, VistaGraphics; Chairman, VRLTA Board of Directors
Randy Thompson started VistaGraphics, Inc. in 1985. Today the company has grown into a full-service publishing firm. As the current publisher of more than 33 titles [disclosure: including VRLTA’s Virginia Guide and Inside Virginia Hospitality], VistaGraphics, Inc. continues to flourish, thanks to Randy’s understanding that the key to success is dedication and strong leadership. His more than twenty-five years of business experience has taught him that to thrive in the competitive marketplace, a company must remain flexible and adaptable.
It’s this same concept, combined with his competitive drive that continually encourages the expansion and growth of VistaGraphics. Randy is dedicated to adapting and diversifying the company’s products and titles on a regular basis by launching new hospitality publications, lifestyle magazines and interactive media efforts.
Today, Randy is just as enthusiastic and excited about the changing face of business as he was back in 1985.
Randy is a graduate of James Madison University with an MBA and a BBA in Business Administration.
What is your favorite Virginia Destination To Visit? And Why?
That’s a very tough question because of what Virginia offers from the extreme southwest tip at Cumberland Gap to the easternmost reaches of Chincoteague and the Eastern Shore. But, I’ll narrow it to 3.
I was born and raised in Roanoke, so this will always be home. I love the mountains that caress the valley and the surrounding trout streams that my dad and I fished. I love the downtown market place, the eclectic eateries, and a hamburger from Texas Tavern…a 10-stool diner that a city grew around. Traveling back to Roanoke these days, I am so proud of “my” hometown and love the opportunity to share it with others.
Harrisonburg and the upper Shenandoah Valley is also a favorite. I went to college at JMU and that part of the valley remains very special to me. This picturesque landscape offers so many outdoor activities; from skiing at Massanutten, swimming at Blue Hole, or fishing at Silver Lake to kayaking the nearby Shenandoah River. Like Roanoke, Harrisonburg’s downtown dining scene has exploded in recent years with so many great choices.
After grad school, I made my home in Virginia Beach. This area truly has it all with a vibrant boardwalk that is second to none. This three-mile strand has the food, views, activities and entertainment that challenge and excite all five senses. But there is much more than just the boardwalk. This is an active population with an abundance of outdoor activities. A place where you can “find your own beach,” whether it be one you share with thousands or one you have all to yourself.
“This association fights for our industry and it's only as strong as its membership.”
How and when did you get started with VRLTA?
I’ve been involved as a member since the early to mid-90’s. As a supplier to the hospitality industry, VRLTA (then VHTA) made a lot of sense. Soon after joining we became the publisher of the Virginia Guide which is the consumer publication of VRLTA.
What interested you in becoming VRLTA’s Chairman of the Board? And, what are your goals as Chairman?
I’m not sure anyone sets out with an interest or desire to take on this role and responsibility. It just seems to find you.
My goals are pretty straight forward. I believe we have to grow membership and membership engagement. I sincerely believe that VRLTA is “one strong voice for tourism and hospitality” in Virginia. But I believe it can be and should be much stronger. The strength of our voice, the value of our sponsorships and our events all point back to membership, so that has to be our focus.
In your opinion, what is the most important reason for individuals or companies considering a membership to VRLTA to join?
This may sound a little altruistic, but I think people should join because they care. Most of us are passionate about our jobs, our businesses and the industry that affords us such wonderful opportunities. This association fights for our industry and it’s only as strong as its membership.
Of course there are many other member benefits such discounts, rebate programs, networking opportunities and learning opportunities that are well worth the cost of admission.
What is the biggest challenge or obstacle you hope VRLTA can overcome during your tenure?
Growing pains. It is a balancing act to grow our voice and influence as we have been doing in recent years and grow revenue to sustain this growth.
What about Virginia’s hospitality and tourism industry?
Funding to promote Virginia is the biggest challenge. We are the sixth most visited state in the US. We are blessed with the best natural resources. Just think what we would we do with proper funding.
What role do you see VRLTA playing in the future, 5 or 10 years from now?
I see our voice gaining strength. In my dreams, our advocacy strength would be on par with our strength as the one of the top employers in the state.
The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association is the only unified voice for the restaurant, lodging, travel and hospitality suppliers associations. VRLTA creates value for members by promoting the legislative interests of the industry, networking, educational opportunities, and protecting free enterprise.
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