Chelsey Sharplin, Lauryn Sharplin and Jill Leo graduate from the Louisiana Tourism Leadership Academy; Rebecca Blankenbaker and Jay Sharplin elected to the Louisiana Travel Association’s board

From left are LTA Executive Director Jill Kidder, Natchitoches Historic District Business Association Director Jill Leo and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

The Louisiana Travel Association (LTA) celebrated the graduation of Chelsey and Lauryn Sharplin of Sharpco Hotels Group, and Jill Leo, with Natchitoches Historic District Business Association, from the Louisiana Tourism Leadership Academy (LTLA) at the association’s 2020 Annual Meeting in Charenton. The 22 members of the LTLA class spent all of 2019 developing their leadership skills while learning from seasoned professionals from throughout the tourism industry.

The goal of the program is to equip each class member with knowledge and skills that will enrich their tourism-related organizations, therefore strengthening the statewide tourism industry.

“I’m excited to graduate as part the Louisiana Tourism Leadership Academy class of 2019,” said Chelsey Sharplin. “I was exposed to a lot of new ideas and learned so much from established leaders in the tourism industry.”

Chelsey Sharplin of Sharpco Hotels Group.

Lauryn Sharplin reiterated that statement, “LTLA was an incredibly fun learning opportunity. Not only did we gain knowledge about tourism, we did it while traveling across our great state seeing everything Louisiana has to offer. And we got to do it with an amazing group of professionals.”

Lauryn Sharplin of Sharpco Hotels Group.


Jill Leo added, “Networking with key tourism leaders has been one of my most valuable experiences to date. “

Members of the class also gave back to the tourism community by selecting businesses within the industry for pro-bono projects. Collectively, the value of the class’ tourism product enhancement and marketing work exceeded $100,000.

“LTLA has been a tremendous opportunity for those interested in learning more about Louisiana’s tourism industry, and we are proud of the 2019 graduating class,” said Jill Kidder, LTA President and CEO. “Not only has this program individually benefited these emerging leaders, but the LTLA class projects are paying off significant dividends for the entire industry.”

Rebecca Blankenbaker, Executive Director of Cane River National Heritage Area, and Jay Sharplin, President of Sharpco Hotel Group, were installed as Louisiana Travel Association (LTA) Board of Directors also during its annual meeting at the Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel.

“I am honoured to be serving LTA and the 750 members the association represents throughout the state,” said Jay Sharplin.

Rebecca Blankenbaker added, “This organization has worked to lead and strengthen Louisiana’s tourism industry for 59 years, and I look forward to working with my fellow board members to keep the momentum going.”

Returning member on the board of directors representing Natchitoches is Arlene Gould with Natchitoches Parish CVB.

“Our executive committee and board of directors are responsible for helping us meet the needs of our members and making sure we accomplish our goals of providing educational and marketing opportunities while also advocating on the industry’s behalf,” said Jill Kidder, LTA president and CEO. “We are excited to be starting off another year with a great group of industry leaders that represent the entire state.”