It is our pleasure to introduce you to Ms.Essence Harris Banks, Chairman of the Board for the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network NOMTN), (2014-2016 Term) and Director of Six Sigma (Process Improvement) for Starwood Hotels & Resorts: Sheraton New Orleans.

She is a graduate of Loyola University New Orleans, ’96 where she started the LU Dance Team,  and was also a member of the NAACP and Black Student Union. Ms.Banks received her MBA from University of New Orleans in 2010.

A “local yocal” as she sometimes calls herself, she attended McDonogh #35 College Preparatory High School, Class of 1992 was the Captain of Eaglettes Dance Team for 2 years, Law Club and Basketball Boosters.

Essence started her career at NOMTN in 1994 and quickly fell in love with her job. “It gave me an opportunity to experience New Orleans from a tourist’s eyes every day.”

Morgan: What does your typical day look like in your two roles?

Essence: At NOMTN I oversee and reside over the Board of directors, work to assist staff with the direction for the organization, support and sustain the work of NOMTN, and provide governance leadership and strategic support.

For Six Sigma I am accountable for accomplishing innovative business process improvements resulting in measurable financial and/or customer loyalty gains utilizing the Six Sigma methodology, mobilizes team members, and others in the organization, to accomplish specific goals to improve processes throughout the hotel.

Morgan: What are your plans and goals for this position?

Essence:  I started my professional career at the NOMTN while in college in 1994-1996 as an intern then promoted to a Convention Sales Manager once I graduated.

I have always had a passion for increasing awareness of multicultural tourism in the City of New Orleans as well as throughout the state. It is important that we continue to highlight the rich culture of the City and showcase our heritage while promoting cultural tourism. The beauty and rich cultural history of the City is what continues to draw visitors from across the world to enjoy our great city.

My goal is to assist the NOMTN in becoming the premiere organization for cultural tourism in the City that directly connects with other hospitality agencies as well as our tourists. The NOMTN serves as a resource for those that want to experience all the city has to offer which is centered on the heart and soul of the city – its culture.

Morgan: How does this benefit and affect the citizens and city of nola as a whole?

Essence: It is the only organization of its kind in the country; the NOMTN strives to be the leader of multicultural tourism while attracting diverse tourists and organizations to New Orleans. Through increased revenue in the City from the hospitality and tourism industry, we are able to continue to create programs and initiatives that attract diverse experiences for our guests and groups.

Morgan: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Essence: I totally enjoy being a part of a movement that promotes New Orleans as a diverse destination with so much to offer travelers that visit the city – there’s a celebration for everything! We must continue to highlight the cultural of the city and provide tourists with an experience they can’t get anywhere else in the world. We have so much to offer which makes us so unique. The feedback we receive from tourists that visit the city share their unique experiences that only New Orleans can provide – from the people and traditions (red bean Monday), our historical neighborhoods (Treme), frequent festivals (Po-Boy Fest), famous music events (Essence Music Festival, Jazz Fest), favorite restaurant and dining experiences, and the rich history you can find on any given street throughout the city. New Orleans is such a fun and lively city.

Morgan: What can we look forward to in 2015?

Essence: The NOMTN Board of Directors and Staff is busy planning a robust calendar of cultural events that focus on raising awareness of the organization as well as the continuation of promoting minority businesses and tourist destinations.

Morgan: Where do you see NOLA in the next 10 years?

Essence: In 10 years I think New Orleans will be the cultural and creative center of the country. We are reinventing the city by bringing in different sectors but our culture will remain intact, and that part will never change. New Orleans will be a place where people continue to be enchanted by the people, food, music and culture.

Words of wisdom to live by: Laissez les bons temps rouler!” is a Cajun expression meaning “Let the good times roll!”

“You’d know you were in New Orleans even with your eyes closed … because of the people. The soul of New Orleans is inseparable from its people. You can hear the love in their expressions. You can see their skill in the architecture, with carriageways and courtyards that take you back to Spain and rows of shotgun houses that recall the city’s Afro-Caribbean heritage. You can get a taste of their passion in the city’s culinary traditions. Boiled crawfish and soft-shell crab. Gumbo and stewed greens. Bread pudding and sweet pralines. The city’s chefs feed more than your appetite – they feed your spirit. And you can feel New Orleanians’ joys and struggles in the jazz, jump, gospel, and blues that play long into the night. So look around and get to know the places, the flavors, the sounds – and most of all the people – that make New Orleans feel so right.”