On the Road Again

2022 Summit Speakers and Bios

Jennifer AckersonJennifer Ackerson

Jennifer Ackerson, President of ALON Marketing Group, is a 25+ year veteran of the travel industry with direct experience in working with a majority of tourism business categories. Jennifer has an excellent understanding of tourism, the travel trade, and the visitor dynamic resulting in a high level of successful strategic tourism business development for both tourism businesses and destinations.

In 2000, Jennifer founded ALON Marketing Group, a tourism consultancy, which cultivates tourism businesses and destinations for effective marketing, partnerships, and operational initiatives. In addition, ALON Marketing Group produces successful tourism sales and marketing programs to assist these tourism businesses and destinations to increase ROI in their tourism marketing efforts.

Jennifer also customizes and delivers high-quality tourism training programs for destinations and their stakeholders. She spearheads the ongoing ‘Steps to Success’ national tourism training program in partnership with International Inbound Travel Association (IITA) and the ‘Tourism Ready’ tourism training program for NYC & Company, the official DMO of New York City.

The impact and contribution of Jennifer’s work is significant in the tourism industry as she delivers custom solutions for tourism businesses and destinations to achieve their tourism goals and build long lasting relationships.

Melissa AndrettaMelissa Andretta

Melissa Andretta is the Director of Aviation Marketing and Development at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), a position she has served in since 2015. Prior to her time at SFO, she worked for the Icelandic national carrier, Icelandair, for thirteen years. While at Icelandair, she spent seven years leading the North American Marketing and Communications team and five years leading the UK & Ireland Marketing and Communications team.

Melissa also spent several years in the Washington, DC area working at Berenson Productions, a boutique media consulting firm.

In addition to her travel industry positions, Melissa taught graduate courses in Global Advertising as an adjunct professor at Emerson College in Boston for four years.

She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she is a proud member of the Athletic Hall of Fame. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, mountain biking, painting and her true passion, skiing.

Quintin BlairQuintin Blair

Quintin Blair graduated Magna Cum Laude from the William F. Harrah School of Hospitality administration at the University of Nevada Las Vegas with a minor in Marketing. Upon graduating in May of 2009 Quintin enjoyed a successful, albeit short-lived career in Real Estate before the family business brought him home to Cody for good in 2014. Currently, Quintin works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Blair Hotels and acts as General Manager for the Buffalo Bill Village; during the summer months, he holds the prestigious position of “lead porter”.

Quintin is a member of the Inbound International Travel Association (IITA) Advisory council, serves as a director on the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) board, as well as the Park County, Hot Springs County and Big Horn County lodging tax boards. He is also a member of several national travel trade organizations including the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), the American Bus Association (ABA), the National Tour Association (NTA) and Rocky Mountain International (RMI). In addition to serving on the Cody Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Quintin also volunteers on the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale Committee as well as the Cody Culture Club.

Elliot CallowayD. Elliot Calloway

Elliot Calloway is the Senior Director Brand Partnerships at Bonotel Exclusive Travel after joining the company in 2013. In the role of Director of Brand Partnerships Elliot oversees the relationships with all brand partners, management companies, and 3rd parties.

Early in his Bonotel career Elliot was tasked with growing secondary and tertiary markets which include New Orleans, Nashville, Memphis, to name a few. Upon taking over these markets he forged relationships with suppliers and CVB’s which helped grow Bonotel’s footprint in these cities extensively. Additionally, during his career with Bonotel Exclusive Travel Elliot has managed markets that include Mexico, Caribbean, Florida, and Seattle. Starting in 2020 he began overseeing the East Coast contracting which includes New York, Boston, Chicago, and more in addition to his role working with large brands and mid-sized brands.

Elliot received the “Rising Star” award from IITA at the 2020 Annual Summit and in conjunction with Bonotel Exclusive Travel been recognized by Travel South International as an “Ambassador to the South” in 2018 and 2019.

Prior to Bonotel Exclusive Travel Elliot worked in franchise development side for USA based Brickz4Kidz and Subway Restaurants. He was tasked with working with franchisees to ensure all brand standards were upheld and as an ambassador to the brand in order to grow his regions.

Julie CokerJulie Coker

Julie Coker is the president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) where she oversees the organization’s efforts to promote and sell San Diego as a top destination for meetings, conventions, overseas travelers and leisure visitors. The San Diego Tourism Authority is recognized as one of the best in the business and continues to set the standard for destination marketing organizations around the country.

Previously, Coker served as the president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) where she oversaw the 2017 NFL Draft and the 2016 Democratic National Convention, which had a combined economic impact of $325 million for Philadelphia. Prior to that, she was PHLCVB’s executive vice president, Convention division, and managed a staff of 25 sales and services professionals responsible for selling the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center and hotel packages to customers across the country.

Prior to joining the PHLCVB, she was the general manager for the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing, where she oversaw all operational aspects of the 350-room hotel. A 21-year Hyatt veteran, she began her career in 1989 as a corporate management trainee at Hyatt Regency Columbus. Throughout her more than two decades with Hyatt, she rose through the ranks in a variety of positions, including assistant front office manager, front office manager, hotel assistant manager, assistant executive housekeeper and general manager.

Coker serves on several boards, including the California Travel and Tourism Commission, Visit California, The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and Meeting Planners International. She is currently one of the vice chairs on the U.S. Travel Association board.

From January 2018-2020, she served as co-chair for U.S. Travel’s Meetings Mean Business Coalition and secretary-treasurer for International Association of Exhibitions and Events Executive Committee (IAEE). In 2016, she served on the transition team of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. From 2016-2019, Coker co-chaired the Shared Spaces Initiative to combat homelessness.

Additionally, Coker is a member of the San Diego Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. In both 2012 and 2019, the Philadelphia Business Journal named her among their Women of Distinction honorees. She was the 2017 United Negro College Fund Mayor’s Ball Honoree for Civic Leadership and was named one of the Network Journal’s 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business. She also received the Cradle of Liberty Good Scout Award by the Boy Scouts of America Cradle of Liberty Council and was the recipient of the 2011 John Wanamaker Award (Individual Award) given by the YMCA of Philadelphia and vicinity.

Coker is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she received a Bachelor of Science in hospitality management and graduated magna cum laude.

Lisa CullyLisa Cully

Lisa Cully is the Associate Director, Leisure Travel for BWH Hotel Group.  Lisa is responsible for increasing the organization’s efforts to develop and execute effective technology and revenue strategies to increase inbound travel to North America through strategic partnerships for BWH Hotel Group.

Lisa has nearly 37 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry.  Prior to joining Best Western, Lisa was Director of International Sales for Choice Hotels International. Choice Hotels International achieved record growth in international revenue during her tenure.

Lisa began her career in tourism with Trusthouse Forte Hotels in 1985 and was appointed Director of Sales for Viscount , she joined Choice Hotels International in 1989 as the organizations Director of International Sales.  In 2002, Lisa joined Best Western International as Senior Manager of Worldwide Sales.

Lisa has been a member of and has served on leadership committees and boards of numerous regional and national organizations including IITA and the Global Leadership Program at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

She currently resides in San Diego with her husband David.  She can be contacted at lisa.cully@bwhhotelgroup.com.

Gerrit De VosGerrit De Vos

Gerrit De Vos grew up in Belgium and moved to the United States after completion of his university degree.

He has worked in the travel industry for almost 30 years and has held positions in operations, product development, marketing and sales.  Gerrit has focused on international sales where his fluency in four languages (English, French, German and Dutch) has served him well.  

Gerrit works for Los Angeles-based AmericanTours International, where he holds the position of Vice President, Business Development. He leads the organization’s sales activities and is instrumental in the company’s growth strategy. Gerrit is a highly experienced sales person with a wide range of travel industry contacts around the world.

Gerrit currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Inbound Travel Association (IITA), a national nonprofit trade association representing the United States’ international inbound travel industry

Gerrit is based in Long Island, NY, is married and the father of three sons.

Aron DavidsonAron Davidson

Aron Davidson is the Travel and Tourism Global Team Leader with the United States Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Service. Based in San Diego, he coordinates travel industry-related department programs worldwide to promote international visitation to the United States. Prior to joining the Commercial Service, he was a Lead Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, a strategic consulting and technology firm, working in International Program Management. In addition, he served as the Director of Government Business Development for a global language and business services company. Previously, he worked for the US Commerce Department as an International Trade Specialist focusing on Government Procurement and NAFTA compliance issues in the Western Hemisphere.

A San Diego native, Aron has a Masters in International Trade Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Spanish from the University of California, Davis.

Fred DixonFred Dixon

Fred Dixon is President and CEO of NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization. He joined the organization in 2005 as Vice President, Tourism and rose to become CEO in 2014. With more than 30 years of experience in the travel industry, Dixon has the overall responsibility for developing and implementing New York City’s tourism, meetings and events strategy and programming to grow business and leisure travel from across the US and from around the world.

At NYC & Company, he has built a sales and marketing team that is at the core of the organization’s strategy to increase visitation and economic impact across the City. In 2019, New York City welcomed a record 66.6 million visitors, which generated $72 Billion in economic impact and powered more than 400,000 jobs across the five boroughs.

Dixon built a global network of 17 global outposts comprising sales, marketing and press professionals in diverse feeder markets from Australia to the UK, China to Mexico and India to Brazil that more than doubled international visitation to 13.5 million by the end of 2019.

In 2020 during the early months of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Dixon organized the Coalition for NYC Hospitality and Tourism Recovery which brought industry leaders together from across industry and all five boroughs to begin planning a path back. By July 2020, NYC & Company and the Coalition published “All In NYC: The Roadmap for Tourism’s Reimagining and Recovery” which is being implemented with the support of a $30 Million investment from the City of New York for recovery messaging and promotion.

Fred is a respected leader with positions on travel industry association boards and committees including the New York Convention Center Operating Corporation Board and U.S. Travel Association where he serves as Vice Chair of the Board, Co-Chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and member of the IPW Planning Committee.

He has previously held board positions with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, Tourism Cares, the National Tour Association (NTA) and Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA).

Prior to joining NYC & Company, Fred served in key positions at the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, Planet Hollywood International, The Biltmore Estate, the Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, Delta Airlines and Group Sales Box Office.

Fred is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and resides in Midtown Manhattan.

Roger DowRoger Dow

Roger Dow is president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the Washington, D.C.-based organization representing all segments of travel in America—an industry that generates $2.5 trillion in economic output and supports 15.7 million jobs. U.S. Travel’s mission is to increase travel to and within the United States.

U.S. Travel advocates for policies that allow travel to thrive. Dow regularly meets with executive branch and congressional leaders to discuss industry priorities, and his efforts have resulted in major legislative victories. He was instrumental in establishing Brand USA, the highly effective national travel and tourism promotion program.

Beyond U.S. Travel’s role as chief travel industry advocate in Washington, the association under Dow’s leadership provides essential research, including analysis of travel’s significant economic impact and products such as the monthly Travel Trends Index.

U.S. Travel produces annual events that connect the industry, such as IPW—the leading international inbound travel trade show—which drives $4.7 billion in future travel to the United States; and ESTO, the premier learning and knowledge-sharing forum for destination marketing professionals.

Additionally, Dow and U.S. Travel are leaders of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, which promotes and defends the value of face-to-face business meetings, trade shows, conferences and conventions.

Counted among Dow’s successes is Project: Time Off, a research-driven initiative aimed at vacation usage that evolved to support the expansion of U.S. Travel’s domestic leisure travel agenda.

For his work to unify the travel industry and increase its effectiveness on Capitol Hill, Dow is the recipient of multiple honors, including the 2018 MPI Industry Leader Award, Successful Meetings’ Most Influential People, and the 2008 TRENDS Association Executive of the Year.

Prior to joining U.S. Travel in 2005, Dow advanced through the ranks at Marriott International in a tenure spanning 34 years, where he rose to senior vice president of global and field sales. He has held seats on the boards of ASAE, ASAE Foundation, PCMA, MPI Foundation, GWSAE, the Travel Institute, RE/MAX International and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.

Dow served in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star and other citations. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Seton Hall University and was honored as a Most Distinguished Alumnus in 2012. In addition, he holds an honorary degree from Johnson & Wales University.

Elliott FergusonElliott Ferguson

Mr. Ferguson serves as President and CEO of Destination DC, the official convention and tourism representative DC. Mr. Ferguson received his Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and Business Administration from Savannah State University. He is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, Religious Conference Management Association, Professional Conference Management Association, International Association of Exhibition Executives and Destination Marketing Association International. 

He currently serves on the board of directors for the following: the U.S. Travel Association; Downtown DC Business Improvement District (BID); The Historical Society of Washington, DC; the Franciscan Monastery; DC Jazz Festival; Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI); the Greater Washington Sports Alliance; and the Military Bowl. He also serves on the US Department of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB), Brand USA’s marketing advisory group, the DC Business Coalition, the Hospitality Alliance, the Mayor’s Taskforce on International AIDS 2012, and the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission.

Mr. Ferguson is a longtime resident of Capitol Hill, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and is an active mentor with Capital Partners Inc.

Alfredo GonzalezAlfredo Gonzalez

Alfredo Gonzalez serves as the Sr. Manager of International Sales for Frontier Airlines and is the Founding Partner of AG Hospitality Group, founded in 2017. After spending 2 years as Vice President of Global Development for Visit Florida, a position he held since January of 2015. Visit Florida is the State’s official tourism marketing corporation. Alfredo was responsible for promoting Florida as a premier year-round travel destination, by expanding Florida’s international presence, travel trade outreach, meetings, events and air service development.

Prior to joining Visit Florida, Alfredo held the position of Senior Vice President of Global Development for Brand USA in Washington, DC. While at Brand USA, Alfredo was responsible for launching the United State’s first ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort to increase international visitation to the United States.

Alfredo also spent almost 15 years with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau as Vice President of International Sales. Alfredo helped to reposition Greater Fort Lauderdale as a premier vacation and business destination and led the bureau’s successful air-service development initiative, which helped Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport become one of the fastest growing domestic and international airports in the nation, attracting new flights from South America, Central America, the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia to mention a few.

Alfredo has been a passionate member of the travel industry, and held leadership positions with Marriott Hotels, Palace Resorts, CFI Resorts/Westgate and Bancor Leaders in Travel in a career that has spanned over 3 decades.

Alfredo is a member of SKAL international, sits on the advisory board of Routes International and the International Inbound Travel Association. Alfredo earned a degree in Psychology from the University of Florida.

Julie Heizer

Julie Heizer

Julie Heizer rejoined the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2003 and is currently serving as the Deputy Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office.  She is responsible for industry outreach and serves as the staff liaison for Brand USA making her responsible for their $100M matching funds and compliance with the Travel Promotion Act.

She has also worked for the U.S. Travel Association, multiple DMOs, including one she helped build from the ground up, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration and a couple of travel agencies, one of which she also helped start. She recently realized she’s REALLY been in travel and tourism since 7th grade where she helped organize school trips.  She’s been orchestrating travel ever since!

Julie is an experienced marketing and promotion professional in the travel and tourism space and is known for her creative problem-solving and approach to making things happen on small budgets. She is passionate about professional development and ensuring that today’s youth are being properly prepared and trained to lead the travel and tourism industry into the 22nd century.

She loves travel, good books, good movies, and good laughs, not necessarily in that order, and continues to make a concerted effort to knock things off her bucket list.

Cathleen Johnson

Cathleen Johnson

Cathleen Johnson, Managing Director of Percepture Travel and president of Cathleen Johnson Tourism Consultants, LLC, is one of the foremost authorities on travel and tourism marketing and communications. She created the travel and hospitality practice at Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, and throughout a 25+ year career there, grew the specialty area to the #1 tourism practice among independent PR agencies. She has developed marketing campaigns for countries including the United States, Mexico and Brazil, and for a wide variety of airlines, hotels, tour and transportation companies and associations.

Cathleen also served as Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. In that position she managed all of the bureau’s marketing functions worldwide.

Johnson has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northern Illinois University and Masters degree from University of Chicago, where she completed her thesis on “The Effects of Travel on Self Actualization in Youth.”  That experience led to a passion for helping kids experience travel, and to that end, she serves on the Board of Trustees of the SYTA Youth Foundation.

She has taught Tourism Public Relations at the American University of Paris, De Paul University in Chicago, and has been a guest lecturer at the NYU and Roosevelt University hospitality schools.

Arthar Khan

Arthar Khan

Athar Khan was appointed to the role of Director, International Specialty Sales in October 2020. Athar and his team are responsible for managing Delta’s relationship with accounts specialized in Asia Pacific, Latin and EMEAI Consolidator business, within the United States. Athar and his team coordinate joint selling activities with our partners Aeromexico, Air France/KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, and China Eastern.

Athar returns from Seoul, South Korea where he was positioned as Director, Asia Pacific, Sales. Athar and his team were responsible for managing Delta’s relationship with Global and Multi-National Accounts as well as world’s three largest Travel Management Companies in Asia Pacific.

Athar was seconded to Jet Airways as Vice President, Americas, for Jet Airways in 2018. Prior to that, Athar served as Director, NY Financial, responsible for the major investment banks and private equity accounts, as well as Director, New York Sales where he helped lead Delta’s drive to “Win in New York”.

Additionally, Athar brings significant international experience from his roles in Doha with Qatar Airways as well as in LAC, EMEA and APAC during his 18 years with American Airlines, making him an ideal fit for his new position.

Athar graduated from Marlboro College, Vermont with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Sociology. Athar currently lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kathleen Matthews

Kathleen Matthews

Kathleen Matthews is an award-winning American television journalist, public affairs advocate, and former communications executive at the world’s largest hotel company. Currently, she is chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic National Committee. For nearly a decade, she was the chief communications and public affairs officer for Marriott International, where she was responsible for the company’s global brand public relations, corporate communications, government affairs, social responsibility, and company culture.


Makiko Matsuda Healy

As Managing Director of Tourism Market Development for NYC & Company, Makiko Matsuda Healy has the overall responsibility for strengthening New York City’s position as a premier travel destination in new, emerging, developing and specialty markets, with a primary focus on product distribution channels and strategic trade partnerships.

Ms. Healy serves as an executive committee member on the board of the International Inbound Travel Association (IITA), and a board member of the Japanese Travel Industry Association (JTIA).  She also serves as an advisory board member of Travel Ability in order to advance Accessible Travel, and she is a EDI committee member of Destinations International.

Penny McNamara

Penny McNamara is based in Orlando, Florida. She moved to the USA from the UK in 2001, which is when her travel industry journey began, working as a resort supervisor for Travel City Direct (a UK Tour Operator) in Orlando. The focus was to welcome and assist UK guests from the moment of arrival to their departure. Several hurricanes and a lot of grey hair later, she moved into the product department at Hotelbeds, where, for more than 15 years Penny worked in various roles from contract, loading, Yield analyst, product manager, and strategic contractor for multiple USA destinations, and finally Director of Product for Florida.

In 2018, she was offered a great opportunity to join MPNA as Chief Contracting Officer, heading up the product department for North America. MPNA is DMC, part of the FTI Group, offering accommodation, attractions, transfers, group services, fly drive packages, tour series, and concierge services to European Tour Operators.

Penny has a great passion for traveling, and thrives in a social environment. She looks forward to welcoming back mutual international guests – along with replacing the yoga pants with business dress to meet with our partners face-to-face.

Jeffrey MentJeffrey Ment

Jeffrey Ment provides legal counsel to travel companies around the world.  He has been in the travel industry for more than thirty-five years.  Prior to law school, he gained valuable experience while working as a travel agent, tour guide and sales manager for two airlines.

Mr. Ment graduated from the University of Connecticut (1989) and the University of Miami School of Law (1992).  He is admitted in New York, Connecticut, the United States District Courts of New York (SDNY and EDNY) and Connecticut as well as the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. Mr. Ment has years of experience mediating cases and was selected as a mediator for Litigation Alternatives, Inc. located in West Hartford, CT.

Mr. Ment offers a unique ability to represent the many facets of the travel and tourism industry: travel agents, OTA’s, tour operators, hospitality groups, cruise lines, trade associations, motor coach tour operators and insurers. He handles the defense of personal injury actions, international and national compliance laws, seller of travel law compliance, general representation for travel companies, resolution of lATA/ARC issues, contract drafting and risk avoidance management services. His cases and clients come from around the globe, including Africa, United Kingdom, South America, Europe and the Caribbean.

He is trusted by travel agents, host agencies, technology companies, tour operators and insurance companies to handle matters across the country and around the world, particularly in claims arising from accidents or incidents. He regularly represents clients in liability litigation arising from these accidents.

Mr. Ment is a sought-after speaker at industry events.  He regularly addresses members of the National Tour Association, United States Tour Operators Association, American Society of Travel Advisors, Family Travel Association, Adventure Travel Trade Association, Wellness Tourism Association, Student & Youth Travel Association, and the International Tour Management Institute.  He is a member of The International Forum of Travel and Tourism Attorneys, The International Society of Hospitality Consultants, and the Academy of Hospitality Industry Attorneys.

Mr. Ment writes the legal column for Travel Age West and is frequently quoted in the media on articles on travel.

The Ment Law Group has offices in Hartford and Westport, Connecticut and New York City.

Chris PilleyChris Pilley

Chris Pilley was born in Kansas and at the age of 4 his family moved to Missouri. He is the youngest of three siblings, who both still reside in Missouri. Growing up his family vacations were to Colorado to spend a week snowboarding. These small tastes of Colorado were enough for Chris to know that he wanted to someday move there. After attending the University of Missouri – Kansas City for two years, in their pharmacy program, Chris decided that he didn’t want to spend his life counting pills, leading him to leave UMKC and head to Colorado.

After a year living in a small mountain town, Chris moved to Fort Collins and shortly after began his career in the tourism industry as a part time and seasonal employee with Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours. His intention to attend CSU and finish college were put on hold as he didn’t qualify for in-state tuition. He was then provided with the opportunity to continue working with Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours after the summer season ended and that’s when he began working his way up in the company. He handled winter contracting, allotments, reservations, accounts receivable, groups, and eventually contracting their activities and ranches. After seven years of learning the ins and outs of the business, Chris purchased the company from its founder, Gary Schluter.

Chris lives in Fort Collins with his wife and their 2 dogs and cats. He spends much of his free time enjoying Colorado’s amazing outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, backpacking, running, snowboarding, hunting, fishing, stand up paddle boarding, and occasionally, if he has time, sitting down and relaxing while enjoying the beautiful mountain views.

Lena RossLena Ross

Lena Ross began working for America 4 You, a Receptive Tour Operator, in 2006 and is the Director of Product Development. She previously held positions in multiple facets of the Tourism Industry. She has been an intern for both the San Diego CVB and the Anaheim/Orange County CVB, and a Sales Manager for the Handlery Hotel San Diego. Lena holds her Master’s in Sustainable Destination Management from George Washington University (2010)  and a Tour Directing Certificate from ITMI(2011). In addition, she was the  President of the Grand Circle Organization for 2 years. In her off time, she is very involved with the Junior League of Orange County, a women’s volunteer organization, and has held multiple leadership roles such as Finance Assistant, Web Manager, and Academy Manager.

Daniel SchwartzDaniel Schwartz

Daniel Schwartz serves as Director, Global Tourism Development, responsible for San Francisco Travel’s tourism efforts worldwide, working closely with tour operators, wholesalers and airlines. Daniel currently manages a network of 10 international offices including in Canada, Europe, India and LATAM. In 2018, Daniel was named one of Destination International’s 30 under 30, a program that recognizes young professionals for their destination marketing achievements and leadership potential in the tourism industry. Daniel manages San Francisco Travel’s partnership with SFO international airport, providing international marketing and aviation development support. Daniel holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and also completed studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Lisa SimonLisa Simon

Lisa Simon currently serves as the Executive Director of the International Inbound Travel Association, the only trade association focused solely on international inbound travel to the United States. With her 30-years of experience in the travel industry specializing in association management, strategic planning, and tourism market development, she has spoken on global and domestic travel industry trends throughout the United States and around the world.

IITA represents the leading US-based inbound tour operators that drive the majority of international travel trade export for the U.S. Other IITA members include travel suppliers like hotels, transportation companies, attractions, restaurants and other travel services.

Peter Van BerkelPeter van Berkel

Peter van Berkel is President of Travalco, a full range Inbound Operator and DMC headquartered in South Florida.  Already during his studies in the Netherlands he was active in the travel trade, both as a Tour Director for a US Company conducting  group tours all over Europe and  by doing  expansion feasibility assessments for a chain of retail agencies.

After his studies he joined Go Florida in 1985 at its inception (renamed to Travalco in 1992) and the company has been fully owner-operated ever since.  Travalco is a pure B2B Inbound Tour Operator and DMC with high standards and uses innovative product creation and technical tools to meet the rapidly changing demands of the inbound markets.   The company has been consistently trusted by major hotel  companies as a partner that contributes to a mutual interest.   On the client side the company has enjoined award winning partnerships for over 30 years with leading tour operators in various market s.

Peter has long been an advocate for inbound industry topics like rate integrity and effective distribution and creation methods of travel products for the international markets. Since the 1990s, he has been an active board member of  the International Inbound Travel Association (IITA) and one of its predecessors, the International Travel Services Association. Today, he serves as Chairman of IITA, the leading association representing international inbound tour operators, and the industry at large.

Rafael VillanuevaRafael Villanueva

After a rewarding and successful 22-year career with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Rafael Villanueva formed Beyond Global Solutions, a tourism marketing consultant company. While at the LVCVA he developed their international vision and strategy that included recruiting, contracting, and managing international representations offices in over 15 countries.

Prior to joining the LVCVA, Mr. Villanueva served as Executive Director of Advertising and Public Relations at the Tropicana Resort and Casino. His career also included working for some of the top advertising agencies in Las Vegas. Clients included hotel-casinos, banks and homebuilders.  Additionally, he worked for KLAS-TV (Las Vegas’ CBS affiliate) as sales promotion director.

Born in Mexico, Villanueva has spent all but one year of his life in Las Vegas. He is proud of his work International Inbound Travel Association (IITA) that included the rebranding of the organization.