Tourism Professional Donna Cordle-Gray Passes Away Unexpectedly

December 28, 2019

Donna Cordle-Gray Center) is pictured at Missouri Bank Travel Exchanges 10th anniversary in 2016. With her are left to right) Missouri Travel Alliance Executive Director Chuck Martin and MBTE committee member Glenda Kerr, Gary Figgins, and Renee Eichelberger.

“Missouri’s tourism family is dealing with the loss of a long-time leader and friend, Donna Cordle-Gray, who passed away unexpectedly on Christmas Day. Beth Mead, President of Missouri Travel Alliance’s Board of Directors, noted that “Missouri’s travel industry has lost one of its true champions and Missouri Travel Alliance has lost one of its dearest friends. On behalf of all of our Board, our members and staff, we extend our deepest condolences to Donna’s family and numerous friends.”

Over her 30 years in Missouri’s tourism industry Donna not only played an integral role in developing Missouri as a domestic and international group travel destination, but she also served as a mentor to travel professionals throughout the state and was widely recognized as an expert in group travel marketing. Her efforts were recognized in 2017 when she was inducted into the Missouri Tourism Hall of Fame.

“Donna was a true professional, and she was highly respected in the industry for both her knowledge and commitment to Missouri tourism,” said long-time friend Renee Eichelberger, director of leisure travel sales for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. “Anyone working in the group travel industry has benefited from the knowledge which she shared freely, and she helped Missouri mold its reputation as a top travel destination. She impacted the lives of so many. It was a pleasure to know and work with her, and she will truly be missed. We have lost one of the best.”

Donna began her career in the late 1980s as Director of Sales for the Park Place Hotel, later moving to Station Casino (now Ameristar) where she was instrumental in developing the casino’s marketing plan. In 1997, she was contracted by the Missouri Division of Tourism to coordinate the state’s group travel marketing efforts, a program she continued to manage. She also crafted an international identity for Missouri that is still recognized today.

In addition to building Missouri’s group travel identity, Donna created the Missouri Bank Travel Exchange on behalf of Missouri Travel Council in 2007, offering Missouri destinations, attractions and lodging suppliers with a cost-effective opportunity to market directly to travel club directors from Missouri and neighboring states.

“She taught all of us so much,” said another long-time friend, Glenda Kerr, who took over MBTE management when Donna stepped back following the event’s 10th anniversary in 2016. “She was there for me professionally and personally anytime I needed her, and I know there are countless others who can say the same thing. We will miss her.”

Donna was elected President of Missouri Travel Council in 1998 and chaired and served on numerous state and regional travel industry committees. She was instrumental in creating Grand Central USA, a four-state marketing organization that focused on attracting niche markets to the partner states of Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas.

A Celebration of Life took place Monday, December 30, at 1 p.m. at The Vineyard Church at 12300 Arrowhead Trafficway in Kansas City.

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About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.