A college elective changed the trajectory of Holly Valenti’s career from prepharmacy to hospitality. During a summer semester at University of New Orleans, she was inspired to switch majors after taking Harsha Chacko’s course, “Intro to Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism.”

“He is so passionate and knowledgeable about the tourism industry, I didn’t think twice about starting over,” she says.

The New Orleans native again faced the daunting task of starting at square one following Hurricane Katrina, learning resilience and perseverance. “The experience taught me to have little fear and realize that failure is OK as long as you learn from it and make adjustments to become smarter and stronger,” she says.

MoreNovember Power Player: Trina Camacho-London

Valenti joined Hosts Global in New Orleans in 2015. She was recently promoted from director of operations to general manager. She succeeds Terry Epton, who held the GM position for 36 years. Although admittedly intimidated by filling her predecessor’s shoes, she’s prepared. “I’m so grateful to have Terry [Epton] as a mentor as he passes the baton to me, and I’m left with the task of inspiring an amazing, award-winning team to be even better,” she says.

Epton has been promoted to the newly created role of executive vice president and global brand ambassador for Hosts Global.

Valenti plans to lead her team by modeling a strong work ethic. This trait was instilled at a young age by working in an ice cream shop to help pay for high school tuition and being responsible for her college loans. While in college, she was known to awake at the crack of dawn to serve breakfast at the convention center before classes, and to clean hotel rooms when there was a 100 percent turnaround.

MoreReport from IAEE: The Future of NOLA’s Meeting Scene

In her role, Valenti loves to showcase the Mardi Gras spirit to visitors. For a centennial event for National Automobile Dealers Association in January 2017, she created an authentic NOLA experience with a futuristic twist. Her team produced a carnival at Mardi Gras World, mini parade floats, custom-branded LED beads and a firework show over the Mississippi River. Guests dined on the best cuisine the city has to offer.

“You only turn 100 once, and I was so proud of being part of the Hosts NOLA Team that produced that epic event,” she says. “Each and every time we close the street to host a private second-line parade for a client, it gives me goose bumps to see the big smiles on each and every face.”

Valenti has previously held executive positions in sales, catering, revenue management and training at Westin, Wyndham and W Hotels in New Orleans.