If you are looking for someone with extensive and diverse experience in the amusement park and leisure industry, Alice Norsworthy (below right) is a great example. Having worked with industry leaders at Disney, SeaWorld, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, and now Universal Orlando, Alice has implemented and led some of the theme park industry’s most novel and successful marketing strategies.
By: Chad D. Emerson
Recently, she visited with Blooloop.com to reflect on her work within the amusement park and leisure world.
1. Share with us how you got started in the amusement industry and the different positions that you’ve held.
I graduated from University of Florida expecting a career as an art director. However, entering that field was more challenging than I expected, so I took a nighttime position at the front desk of the Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World while I did freelance work for a local ad agency during the day. The combination of those experiences led to my first salaried position at Sea World Florida Festival.
In the 24 years that followed I held a variety of marketing positions in the Central Florida tourism community including Boardwalk & Baseball, a local ad agency and Walt Disney World. At Disney, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of marketing and related areas including Advertising, Marketing Special Projects, Brand Management, Domestic Marketing and Disney Cruise Line marketing. My last position at Disney was in Operations where I led the development of new products and services for the company and gained broader business experience.
In 2005 I decided to venture out and accept the position of SVP, Marketing for Royal Caribbean in Miami. It was an exciting time in the cruise industry and an opportunity for me to oversee an entire marketing program. Just this Summer I returned to Orlando as the EVP, Sales and Marketing for Universal Orlando, where I am today.
2. How did you end up at the Universal Orlando Resort and what are some of the unique things that you’ve noticed about this specific resort?
I was attracted by both the people and the exciting things that are happening here at Universal Orlando, as well as the position itself. We have an impressive menu of upcoming projects including Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The position will also enable me the opportunity to oversee a fully integrated sales and marketing program, something I’ve not had the opportunity to do in my career. I’ve been most impressed by the high level of collaboration and focus on quality and innovation in both the product and marketing and sales programs.
3. What are two of the most challenging leadership experiences that you’ve faced while working in the amusement industry?
Moving from Marketing to Operations at Walt Disney World was one of my greatest career challenges and in the end, one of the most rewarding. After a career exclusively in marketing, I moved over to Operations to try and quickly work with the Operating team to launch a new business. I was outside of my area of functional expertise, and I needed to influence leaders who knew their discipline much better than I ever would. The key for me was fully appreciating their concerns and challenges while at the same time advocating the opportunity created by the new business I was leading. The relationships I built and the experience I gained during that time remain invaluable.
My second challenge was moving to Royal Caribbean. Not only was it a whole new role with a unique set of responsibilities, but it was a new company and a new city. It was a lot of change to manage both personally and professionally. As I came onboard, we were launching a new class of ship, the Freedom of the Seas. It really reinforced the benefit of paying attention to the most important priorities and letting the little stuff take care of itself. I also established personal and professional trusted advisors quickly so that I had a sounding board for my decisions.
4. Share with us an example of an extremely rewarding leadership experience that you’ve had while working in the amusement industry.
I’ve had the opportunity to be part of some highly visible professional achievements like opening a theme park or launching a new ship, but for me personally it’s the people you positively influence along the way that is most rewarding. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people throughout my career and every once in a while they’ve sent me a note or thanked me for the difference I made. That is the time when I truly feel rewarded.
5. Let’s say it’s a beautiful spring day in Central Florida. Describe to us your perfect day at the Universal Orlando Resort.
I have a six-year old daughter and a husband who’s been around theme parks as long as I have, so we are experts at creating the perfect theme park day. It would start out with a character breakfast at Islands Of Adventure. We’d then spend time enjoying the attractions and shows, but most of all watching our daughter as she braves a rollercoaster or gets swept up in the drama of the live entertainment. After lunch we’d move over to Universal Studios for more action and thrills. The evening would end watching Universal 360 and enjoying the fireworks over the lagoon with an exhausted little girl in our arms.
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