Cookie Smoak

She’s responsible for generating economic impact and chooses to help other women succeed

Cookie Smoak

Photography by Martha Williams

People love working with Cookie Smoak. She’s worked for Delta Air Lines twice, the Orlando CVB twice, and the Atlanta CVB twice. Now, the ATL Airport District Convention and Visitors Bureau has the lucky distinction of having her serve as president, a position she’s held for the last 11 years. Smoak—who got her first name from her father, a former Nabisco worker—is responsible for marketing College Park, Hapeville, and Union City, helping to generate economic impact while overseeing a multimillion-dollar yearly budget. She’s proud of how she’s grown the CVB from representing one city, College Park, to three. “Everything we’ve done has been from the ground up,” she says.

She recently rolled off the board for the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (GACVB), where she served as head of the content committee for nearly five years. It was during this tenure that she held an impactful session in 2021 about diversity, equity, and inclusion in tourism with Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, and William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. It was the first-ever DEI session at the association’s annual meeting and among the highest-rated sessions that the GACVB has ever offered.

A regular volunteer at civic cleanup days and the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Smoak’s real passion is helping other women in the industry come up through the ranks. “I’ve taken it upon myself to take care of women and help them achieve their goals in this industry,” she says. “As women, we need to support each other. I’ve been there and done it all. I want to help others along.”

Smoak is the 2024 recipient of the GACVB’s Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award. “My heart has always been my compass, and to be recognized by my peers in celebration of not only my leadership skills but also my friendly and supportive nature fills me with an overwhelming sense of gratitude,” she says.