Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: November/December 2010
The Most Influential African-Americans In The Meeting/Tourism Industry
By: Gloria M. Herbert
Each year BM&T offers our annual review of the progress and success of those African-Americans who continue to make significant contributions to our industry. Considering the challenges the industry has gone through in the last couple of years, the accomplishments of those included in this report and more impressive than ever. It certainly shows a level of commitment, perseverance and excellence that we should all emulate as we pursue our individual career paths in the competitive meetings, tourism and hospitality arena.

As always there are some new additions to the list, while some familiar faces are gone, at least for the moment. We were especially pleased to learn of the appointment of Monica Smith to the position as president/CEO of the Macon CVB. We have followed Smith’s career closely and watched with much pride as she blossomed into a well-respected industry leader. Also new this year is Cleo Battle and Greg O’Dell, both of whom have proven they deserve this recognition by the fine work they have done in Richmond and Washington, DC respectively. Back again is Ronnie Burt, although this time as VP of Convention Sales and Services with Destination DC.

Dropping off the list is Ed Grier, who retired from his position as president of Disneyland Resort. Also gone are Kansas City’s Ava Gardner, Hilton’s William Holland, former Pasadena CVB president Nan Merchand, State of Ohio’s Alicia Reece and industry icon Brenda Scott, who’s still active in the industry, though not on the CVB side of the business. Putting together this list every year makes us, and I hope you, so very proud of those who we are recognizing. But as a result of the process involved it also becomes obvious that so much more needs to be done in the area of diversity and inclusion.
As always, those listed here are to be commended for their achievements, their tenacity, and their determination to succeed in an industry that has been slow to embrace the concept of inclusiveness. Overcoming the challenges they’ve had to face in order to reach the top of their profession, they’ve earned the right to your respect, admiration and recognition. And most importantly, they deserve your consideration when it comes to booking business with them, for them or from them.

, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB) and a 30-year veteran of the hospitality and tourism industry, has shaped the Bureau into the leading organization responsible for facilitating tourism economic growth in Metro Detroit. His introduction of a 10-year tourism vision for the region led to several efforts now well underway to achieve regional beautification; service training of hospitality industry workers; and infrastructure improvements, including a critical review of regional facility space. Alexander leads an innovative, multi-award winning convention sales, marketing and convention services effort that has often exceeded CVB industry standards for its performance. He oversees an annual budget of $12 million and 51 employees.

Following passage in 2009 of Michigan Public Act 554, which regionalized the management of Cobo Center under a public Authority, Governor Jennifer Granholm named Alexander as the State’s appointee to the five-member Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority Board. Alexander was elected Chairman at the Authority’s first meeting and is currently leading a team that is transforming Detroit’s Cobo Center into a competitive 21st-century meeting and convention facility.

On behalf of the DMCVB, Alexander navigated the efforts to land some of the world’s most coveted sporting events, including Super Bowl XL in 2006 and the 2009 NCAA Men's Final Four. He also created and leads the Detroit Metro Sports Commission, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bureau responsible for landing the 2003 and 2008 AAU Junior Olympic Games, the 2008 Women's International Bowling Congress, and contributing to the successful bid for the 2005 MLB All Star Game.

Before stepping into his current DMCVB role, Alexander was an executive in the for-profit arena. He was the Managing Director of The Westin Hotel – Detroit Renaissance Center (now under Marriott ownership), responsible for the marketing and operations of one of the nation’s largest hotels. He also served as General Manager of The Westin Miyako in San Francisco; The Westin-O’Hare in Chicago and The Westin Hotel Cincinnati.
In addition to his chairmanship of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, Alexander is a board member of the American Society of Association Executives, the Michigan Society of Association Executives, The Parade Company (Detroit), The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, The Detroit Zoological Society, New Detroit and Forgotten Harvest.

JESSIE ALLEN, is the general manager of the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the facility, the second-largest convention center in the nation. Allen has managed several departments within the Orange County Government structure during his 33-year tenure.

LARRY ATCHISON, has been recently promoted to vice president of Convention Sales, Services & Sports at the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). In his new position, Atchison has the primary responsibility of directing the convention and sports sales initiatives within the bureau.

Atchison, a 28-year veteran of the hospitality and meeting industry, has been with ACVB for 17 years. After serving as ACVB’s sales manager for four years in Washington, D.C., he returned to Albuquerque where he was promoted to Senior Director of Sales in 2006. He most recently served as Interim Vice President of Convention Sales & Services for the Bureau.

DON H. BARDEN is owner, chairman and CEO of Barden Companies, Inc., The Majestic Star and Fitzgeralds Casinos and Hotels, and Waycor Development Company. In December 2001, Barden acquired the Fitzgeralds Casino Hotel with properties in Las Vegas, Mississippi and Colorado; additionally acquiring Trump Indiana Casino and Hotel in 2005. His conglomerate operates in the casino, real estate development and entertainment industries from his corporate headquarters in downtown Detroit.

With a business career spanning more than 40 years, Barden is recognized as one of the top Black entrepreneurs in the country. He has guided Barden Companies and its affiliates from earnings of $600,000 to 2005 revenues of more than $519 million, making it one of the largest African-American-owned businesses in the country.  Prior to establishing Barden Companies, Mr. Barden spent 20 years in Lorain, Ohio, where he became the first elected Black city councilman in Lorain history and served two terms before leaving to pursue other business endeavors. He founded a weekly newspaper, the Lorain County Times, and served five years as the publication’s publisher and editor. As news anchor for WUAB-TV in Lorain and host of a weekly talk show for the NBC affiliate in Cleveland, Barden spent 11 years as an on-air personality in Ohio.

CLEO BATTLE is vice president of Sales and Services for the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. Battle has worked in the hospitality industry for 23 years. He began his position as vice president at the Bureau in 2000. Previously he served as the Bureau’s director of Sales and Sales Manager. Before joining the Richmond Metro CVB, he spent 10 years in the hotel industry as general manager, assistant general manager and director of Sales in Syracuse, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver.

Battle, a native of Denver, Colorado attended Metropolitan State College earning a B.A. degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management in 1988. He later earned a Masters of Business Administration degree from Averett College in Virginia in 1997.

Battle currently serves as president of the Virginia State University Hospitality Advisory Board, American Society of Association Executives Industry Partner Alliance Committee, International Association of Exhibitions & Events Diversity Task Force, Destination Marketing Association International Sales & Marketing Committee and a member of the Manchester YMCA Board.

STELLA BEENE-VENSON is the meetings and travel administrator for the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. For the last 22 years, she’s been the go-to person for setting up meetings for various organizations, committees and members of the church’s organization and hierarchy. Her clients within the church range from youths considering the ministry, to women in the clergy, to the church’s Board of Directors. Beene-Venson is a long time member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and serves as the organization’s current president.

, with the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau since 1983, serves as senior vice president, community and governmental affairs. Bertrand has been instrumental in the ACVB’s development of diversity marketing programs and its governmental relations. She is the highest-ranking woman or African-American staff member in the history of the organization.

Bertrand serves on numerous boards and has been recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of “Atlanta’s Top Hospitality Industry Leaders,” by Black Meetings & Tourism magazine as one of the “Most Influential African-Americans in the Meetings/Tourism Industry,” and by the Atlanta Business League as one of “Atlanta’s Top 100 Black Women of Influence.” Under her direction the ACVB publishes its African-American visitor publication, Atlanta Heritage Guide, which just celebrated its 20th consecutive year in print in 2010. Bertrand’s most recent project is the production of the BronzeLens Film Festival, a new film festival that celebrates Atlanta as both a destination and the new mecca for film and film production by people of color.

Bertrand is a well known and honored jazz recording artist/writer, with performances ranging from two Olympic Games to performances before two presidents and jazz concerts world-wide. A three-time Montreux Jazz Festival performer, Bertrand’s discography includes 4 CDs, with her newest CD release scheduled for spring 2011.

ERNEST P. BOGER, CHA, FMP, CHE, CHA, FMP, CHE, is tenured associate professor and chairman of the Hotel & Restaurant Management(HRM) Department within the School of Business and Technology at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore(UMES), Princess Anne, MD. Dr. Boger exercises CEO accountability for a thriving Bachelor of Science Degree Program, designed to produce entry level managers for a variety of Foodservice, Lodging and Travel/Tourism related professional careers.

Prior to UMES, he held leadership roles with Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina, West Indies and Wiley Universities as well as The Jamaica Hotel School/Hotel Casa Monte, Kingston, Jamaica and Parry Property Management Co. of Dallas, TX. Under his recent leadership, UMES was accredited by the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) as the 20th University nationwide, and the First HBCU, to offer the Bachelor of Science Degree in Professional Golf Management. Similarly, the overall HRM degree program was guided to ACPHA accreditation earlier this year. With 40+ years of industry operations and training expertise, he is recognized as the “Dean” of Black College Hospitality Educators. Dr. Boger regularly provides consulting services in hospitality marketing and training to U.S., Caribbean, and African companies and governments. He has held leadership positions with more than 20 major industry organizations, including currently, the Professional Certification Commissions of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), and the National Restaurant Association (NRA). A prolific writer, Dr. Boger has authored 10 book chapters and more than 100 articles on industry subjects Since last year’s issue, he has received the BM&T/TPOC APEX Award and was designated a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) Emeritus by the AH&LA. The first African American to be so recognized.

is executive director of the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Rock Hill, SC. He was hired as the organization’s first executive director in June of 2000 after the official merger of the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Rock Hill Sports Council. Brown’s primary duties are to oversee the daily operations of the CVB, with specific responsibility for supervising activities that market York County to the sports, group tour, meetings and leisure traveler tourism segments.

Prior to joining the tourism industry, Brown worked in public relations and media relations for 19 years, and held a number of positions in the communications field.

RONNIE BURT, as the new vice president of Convention Sales and Services, sets convention sales and services strategies for Destination DC, the official convention and tourism corporation for the nation’s capital. He leads a team tasked with selling the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and hotel properties and meeting venues located in and around DC, including the Washington Marriott Marquis, which recently broke ground. Burt joined the Destination DC team in August 2010 after serving as senior vice-president of convention sales & services for the Indianapolis CVB.

CLARA CARTER, a native San Diegan and 20-year business and hospitality veteran, is president and founder of the Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network (MCCSN), Inc., a San Diego-based for-profit destination/meeting management organization. MCCSN’s focus is to market and promote the city of San Diego and other cities to diverse national associations and leisure travelers that primarily represent diverse cultures and populations.

Additionally, Carter is the founder and executive producer of San Diego’s Multicultural FAM Tour. It is the first of its kind in the area and MCCSN is one of only a few independent destination management companies that specifically target this underserved market segment. Prior to establishing MCCSN, Carter spent 21 years with a major corporation in San Diego before launching into entrepreneurship to establish Creative Visions Meetings and Events, a full service meeting and event management company.

Carter is a much sought after speaker and industry expert on issues surrounding multicultural tourism and diversity. She has been recognized by Black Meetings and Tourism for her leadership and professionalism in the hospitality industry, Local recognitions include: 2010 Small Business of the Year Award – Southern Region of California; being named one of the top 50 People to Watch in San Diego for 2010; 2009 Women Who Mean Business honoree; 2009 Special Star Award (dedication and service to African American Art in San Diego). Numerous other awards and recognitions, include the 2007 Meeting Planner of the Year from the International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals, and in 2009 and 2010, Ms. Carter was a successful grant recipient from the San Diego Tourism Marketing Promotion Corp. She is charged by the SDTMD board with facilitating the city of San Diego’s marketing outreach efforts and group bookings to the multicultural tourism market.

WANDA COLLIER-WILSON is president and chief executive officer of the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau, a position she has served in since 1998. She leads a 22-member staff that has included the management and staff of the Mississippi Telecommunications & Conferencing Center up till October 1, 2008, when the CVB handed over the management of the building to SMG. Collier-Wilson joined the CVB 25 years ago as receptionist and has held every position at the Bureau prior to becoming president and CEO.

Collier-Wilson has been nationally recognized by JET magazine and Black Meetings & Tourism magazine for her leadership as a tourism professional, and recognized regionally and statewide by a number of other organizations including the Mississippi Development Authority-Division of Tourism, which inducted her into its Tourism Hall of Fame in 2006. She was a 2006 Recipient of the Phenomenally She award in the Business Leader category for The Dr. Jessie Bryant Mosley Award of Excellence Exhibit presented by Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. Collier-Wilson has also been named one of Mississippi’s “50 Leading Business Women” in 2006 by the Mississippi Business Journal. Under her leadership, the Jackson CVB was named “2005 Mississippi CVB of the Year” and won a Readers’ Choice Award in 2006 from Convention South magazine as one of the South’s top CVBs. The Mississippi Tourism Association recognized Collier-Wilson with an Excellence in Tourism Award in 2004.

Collier-Wilson served as vice president of the Mississippi Tourism Association in 2007 and was president of MTA for 2008. In April 2008, she received the Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine APEX award for her achievement in tourism. She was given this award for her outstanding service and contributions that have not only enhanced the travel and tourism industry overall, but also promoted diversity in all aspects of the industry as well.

LEWIS H. DAWLEY III, a 30+ year veteran of the convention center industry, serves as regional vice president of Convention Center Operations and Business Development for SMG. Prior to joining SMG he was general manager and CEO of the Washington Convention Center Authority, Washington D.C. Dawley is one of a handful of industry experts to manage the planning, construction and grand opening of four convention centers. Before Washington, Dawley served as the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority’s general manager, where he developed a strategic operational plan for the opening of the 1.3 million-sq. ft. facility and directed day-to-day operations. Dawley also opened and operated the COBO Convention/Exhibition Center in Detroit, where he was general manager from 1977 to 1989, and the Minneapolis Convention Center, where he was director of Operations from 1989 to 1991.

Dawley is a member of several professional organizations including the International Association of Assembly Managers, the National Association of Exposition Managers, the Professional Convention Management Association, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association.

ELLIOT FERGUSON serves as president and CEO of Destination DC. Starting his tenure with the organization as vice president of Convention Sales and Services, Ferguson led the organization’s effort to promote Washington, DC as a premier meeting and convention destination. In his new, role Ferguson will lead the sales and marketing organization and manage the finance and business development operations.

A 20-year veteran of the CVB industry, Ferguson has been with Destination DC since December 2001. Prior to working at Destination DC he served as vice president of Sales at the Atlanta, Georgia CVB. He has also served as director of Sales for both the Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia CVBs.

Ferguson received a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and Business Administration from Savannah State University. He is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, the Religious Conference Management Association, and the Professional Convention Management Association. Ferguson also serves as a board member for the March of Dimes Capital Chapter.

VALERIE C. FERGUSON, with three decades of experience in the hospitality industry, brings a wealth of expertise to the Loews Atlanta Hotel. Named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Travel by Travel Agent magazine and one of the Top 100 Women in Corporate America byEbony, Ferguson continues to be a leader in hospitality and tourism across the country. She is a past chairman of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) where she spearheaded “Opportunity of a Lifetime”, a campaign organized to promote hospitality careers throughout the United States.

Ferguson joined the Loews Atlanta in the spring of 2010 as the Regional Vice President for the company’s first new-build hotel opening in 10 years. This new position will mark a return to Atlanta for Ferguson, who gained status as a city icon during her years in the market service as general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta and general manager positions at Hyatt properties in Atlanta, Chicago and Flint, Michigan. Prior to joining the Loews Atlanta team, Ferguson served as the regional vice president & managing director in Philadelphia, beginning in 1998 to oversee the $115 million conversion of the landmark PSFS Building into the luxury, convention-driven Loews Philadelphia Hotel. She was further charged with leading the property through its high-profile opening in the spring 2000.

Ferguson’s numerous awards and accolades are tribute to her dedication and passion for the hospitality industry. Some of her awards include The National Women of the Year in 1993 from the Network of Executive Women in Hospitality, The Drum Major for Justice Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1998, and a 2009 BM&T Apex Award for Distinguished Service, among many others.

GERRY FERNANDEZ is founder and president of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), a national non-profit organization that promotes the business benefits of cultural diversity in the food and hospitality industry while helping its members attract, develop, and retain multicultural talent. With over 35 years of experience in the industry, Fernandez has held leadership positions with several well known companies including General Mills, The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Hemenway’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar and The Capital Grille, now owned by Darden.

Fernandez founded MFHA in 1996 while employed at General Mills as a national account manager. Since then, MFHA has grown into a respected and well known non-profit with over 1,000 members. MFHA was the first organization to bring about a national discussion on diversity management in the hospitality industry and today, MFHA remains the only non-profit organization focused on promoting the business case for diversity within the restaurant, foodservice and lodging segments.

As President of MFHA, Fernandez has been influential in aiding dozens of companies with their diversity talent management initiatives and has been directly involved in creating programs designed to attract, develop and retain multicultural talent to the industry.  He is an accomplished speaker and has presented nationwide and in Canada, London, England, Vienna, Austria, the Caribbean, Mexico, and in Beijing, China.

MICHAEL GUNN, CMP is the vice president of Convention Sales for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. In this position he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Convention Sales staff in booking state, regional, national and international convention business for the Greater Birmingham area. He supervises a staff of 14, and prepares monthly, quarterly and annual sales and marketing business plans.

Gunn is a board member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP), CMP Board, and a former member of the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) foundation board. He has over 27 years of industry experience.

TANYA HALL works as the executive director of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC), a division of the PCVB, to ensure that Philadelphia’s multicultural communities are included in every aspect of the Philadelphia hospitality industry. Since MAC’s inception in 1987 as the first division of a CVB in the nation, the MAC and PCVB have measured an increase of more than 800% in multicultural bookings, resulting in an economic impact of more than $1.5 billion.

SARA B. HAMLIN has been in the tourism industry for more than 20 years. She has been vice president of Tourism for the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau for eight years. Hamlin is responsible for promoting and booking motor coach business, family reunions, implementation of the tourism division’s marketing plan and budget for the greater Birmingham area. She also supervises the operations of three Birmingham area visitor centers.

Hamlin serves on the Board of the American Bus Association. Hamlin serves on the Board of Governors of ABA Foundation. She is involved in the following organizations: Destination Marketing Association International, Bank Travel, National Tour Association, Ontario Motorcoach Association, African-American Travel Conference, YWCA, and The Women Network.

, serves as both president of TPOC (Travel Professionals of Color), and program director of TPOC’s annual minority travel agents conference. TPOC is an organization whose focus is on education, training and networking with and for minority travel agency owners, managers, agents and sales staff with a special emphasis on the African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans. Haymore formed TPOC with the help of Betty Jones of CB Jones Travel Service, another minority travel agent also located Denver, Co.

Haymore has more than 30 years experience in the travel industry, including 25 years as an airline employee and 14 years as a travel agency owner, and is passionate about minority travel businesses being run professionally and providing the very best in customer service.

GLORIA M. HERBERT is the associate publisher/editor of Black Meetings & Tourism magazine, the award winning, international bi-monthly industry trade publication for the African-American meeting planner, incentive manager, travel agent and hospitality/tourism professional. Herbert also serves as associate producer of “Globetrotting,” a television travel series that premiered in November of 2002 on BET on Jazz.

Before creating Black Meetings & Tourism along with her husband, Solomon Herbert, who serves as the magazine’s publisher/editor-in-chief, Gloria was a part of their print and photo journalism team that produced over 800 articles which appeared in numerous regional, national and international publications.

Herbert’s early work experience was as an educational consultant for children with neurological deficiencies. She holds an undergraduate degree from California State University at Long Beach and a Masters of Science from the University of Southern California. Also, Herbert has the distinction of having attained the level of “Sensei” (teacher) in the art of Ikebana (Japanese Flower Arrangement) with over 15 years of training in this specialized area of floral design.

SOLOMON J. HERBERT is the publisher/editor-in-chief of Black Meetings & Tourism magazine, the multi award-winning international industry trade publication for the African-American meeting planner, travel agent and hospitality/tourism professional. He also serves as executive producer of “Globetrotting,” a travel television series that debuted in April of 2002 on BET on Jazz.

Before creating Black Meetings & Tourism with his business partner and wife Gloria, Herbert was self-employed as a full-time freelance print and photo journalist since 1981. During that period over 800 of his articles appeared in numerous regional, national and international publications. Herbert currently holds membership in several professional organizations, including the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP), National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Travel Professionals Of Color (TPOC), Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Africa Travel Association (ATA), Travel and Tourism Marketing Association (TTMA), Black Business Association of Los Angeles (BBA) and Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAAC).

Herbert and his wife Gloria were the 2002 recipients of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planner's Minority Business Award, the 2005 recipients of the Regional Black Chamber of Commerce of San Fernando Valley’s Small Business of the Year Award, the 2007 recipients of Outstanding Entrepreneur Award from the Black Business Association of Los Angeles, the 2008 recipients of California State Salute to Small Business Award, the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from NABHOOD and most recently, the 2010 Small Business Award from the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley & Region.

is vice president of Convention Sales & Marketing for the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Hutchinson and his staff are responsible for generating direct spending revenue to the City of Virginia Beach by bringing meetings, conventions, professional tradeshows and sports-related events to the City. Hutchinson and the City of Virginia Beach are proud to welcome guests to the new 500,000-sq. ft. Virginia Beach Convention Center. Fully opened January 2007, the facility features a 31,000-sq. ft. ballroom, 150,000-sq. ft. column-free exhibit hall and over 29,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hutchinson is an active industry leader locally and nationally having served on numerous committees and boards. In addition, Hutchinson has been a long-time member of Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), the American Society of Association Executives, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, the Professional Convention Management Association and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.

Hutchinson is a 2008 APEX Award for Distinguished Service recipient, presented by Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their field positively impacting the travel and tourism industry. Through his vision, professionalism, and highly regarded reputation, Hutchinson has opened the door to a variety of opportunities and numerous accolades. During his tenure, his team has hosted ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership’s Convention Center Operations Program and has received a number of awards:

Prior to his 2003 appointment as vice president of Convention Sales & Marketing for the Virginia Beach CVB, Hutchinson held various sales positions in the hospitality industry: national sales manager for The Park Hotel, Charlotte, NC; director of Convention Sales for the Visit Pittsburgh; senior sales manager for the Charlotte Convention Center; and sales manager for the Greater Richmond CVB.

ANDY INGRAHAM serves as president/CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers, Inc. (NABHOOD), of which he was one of the founders in 1999. NABHOOD was formed to increase the number of African-Americans developing, managing, operating and owning hotels; increase vendor opportunities and executive level positions for minorities, thereby creating wealth within the African-American community.

Ingraham is also president of Horizons Marketing Group Intl. Inc., a marketing and public relations corporation with special emphasis on African-American and multicultural tourism. He has over 25 years in the tourism industry, developing specific expertise in multicultural and Caribbean tourism. Because of his knowledge and expertise, he is a constant source of articles and has been featured or quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Public Radio, Hotel Business, Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine and a host of other publications. Horizons created a number of programs for Caribbean destinations seeking to access the growing African American and multicultural market.

Some accomplishments are: appointed to the National Tourism Advisory Committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); appointed by Congressman Alcee Hastings to the White House Conference on Tourism; founded and hosted the Annual International African-American Hotel Ownership/Multicultural Tourism Summit & Trade Show; created & designed the first multicultural tourism collateral piece in the State of Florida for Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau to attract African-American tourism. Andy also was a consultant for the Dutch Island of St. Maarten working specifically to increase the islands visibility among African-Americans.

ROY JAY, is one of the most well-known African-American icons of the convention and tourism business. Although he is based in Portland, Oregon you will find Roy Jay’s his footprint and influence all over the country. He has been identified by friends, colleagues and even competitors as one of the guiding lights in the industry. Whether it’s mentoring the next generation or being part of a competitive bid, his deep baritone voice can be heard nearly a block away.

Jay serves as a business advisor and has been a contributing factor to the growth of TPOC (Travel Professionals of Color) and also serves on the board of the Association of African American Meeting Professionals which is basically centered on education and empowerment and supports the International Hispanic Meeting Planners Association.

Jay’s has a long standing contractual partnership agreement with Travel Portland in which he works in tandem with the bureau to help attract minority and other significant organizations to the City of Roses.

But that’s where it just starts... When you get Roy Jay, you get an entire team of people that will help make even the smallest of conferences a success. He has been the recipient of the Spirit of Portland award, the highest recognition of the City for these ongoing efforts which has helped thousands of individuals get back on track by expunging minor criminal convictions and converting delinquent traffic fines to well thought out community service.

Jay is a speaker, a motivator and inspiration. The guy wears multiple hats every day. When asked how many jobs he really has, he simply smiles and replies “I don’t have jobs, I have opportunities and I have to make the best of them”. Known for his no-nonsense but comedic style, Roy has brokered not only convention and meetings, but has become a pivotal player on the national scene through his active participation with the National Alliance of African American Chambers and the Alliance of Minority Chambers.

is the Founder and Chairman of The RLJ Companies, an innovative business network that provides strategic investment and direction in and for a diverse portfolio of companies in the financial services, real estate, hospitality/restaurant, professional sports, film production, gaming and recording industries.

Under The RLJ Companies umbrella, Johnson owns or holds interests in companies operating in the professional sports, hospitality/restaurant, real estate, financial services, gaming and recording industries. Core assets of The RLJ Companies include RLJ Development, a privately held hotel investment company, which acquires and develops upscale select-service hotels, including Hilton-branded and Marriott-branded hotels in major North American urban markets. In February 2006, RLJ Development entered into an agreement to acquire 100 hotels for approximately $1.7 billion, bringing total holdings to 111 hotels.

Other assets include RLJ Urban Lodging Fund, a private equity hotel investment company, RLJ Asset Management Group, RolloverSystems, a financial services company in Charlotte, NC.

OSCAR MCGASKEY, JR., is the executive director of the Kansas City Convention and Entertainment Facilities, which consist of the Convention Center, Music Hall, Kemper Arena and the American Royal Center. McGaskey has responsibility for a $40 million operating and capital maintenance budget and 120 employees. Under McGaskey’s leadership, the Convention Center has been recognized as one of the best managed facilities in the country and has received several Prime Site awards from Facilities and Destinations Magazine in New York City. McGaskey was recently honored by the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City with the 2010 Hospitality Leadership Award. Previously, McGaskey was the general manager of the Dallas Convention Center from 1992-2002.

MICHAEL MUNN was appointed chief of staff and director of Business Development for the Boston Convention Marketing Center (BCMC) in the Spring of 2004 by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. Munn is responsible for business management and developing programs in support of the BCMC and implementing diversity initiatives that focus on Boston's multicultural and multinational qualities.

During his 20-plus years in the Meetings industry, he has held positions with the National Managed Health Care Congress; vice president of Sponsorship Programs, International Data Group (IDG); show director for ComNET DC and ComNET San Francisco and manager of Business Development & Partner Alliances at the Hurwitz Group, a strategic e-business marketing, research and consulting company.

CURTIS MYLES serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Monorail Company. A native Nevadan, Myles began his career in transportation after receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from Colorado State University while attending on athletic scholarship. Upon his graduation, he began work with a national shipping and cargo firm from 1986 to 1991. Returning to Las Vegas in June of 1991, he embarked upon an 11-year career in aviation management with the Clark County Department of Aviation. He served in several managerial capacities, including operations manager, as well as his final position there as assistant director of aviation. Myles departed the Department of Aviation for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada in May of 2002, where he served as deputy general manager for three years. He accepted his current position with the Las Vegas Monorail Company in July of 2005. He holds both a Bachelor of Science and Masters degrees in Economics and teaches economics part-time at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

serves as Commissioner of Tourism for the United States Virgin Islands, a cabinet-level position. She oversees the Department of Tourism’s advertising and marketing plans, its national and international tourism-related efforts and product development.

Twenty-six years ago, while attending the College of the Virgin Islands, Nicholson Doty began her career in the hospitality industry as a reservations clerk at what was then the Virgin Isle Hotel. Quickly rising in the ranks, she served as front desk manager, front office manager, Room’s Division manager, hotel manager, sales manager, and marketing & sales director.  In March 1993, Nicholson-Doty joined the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel & Tourism Association as its executive director. In this position, her responsibilities included spearheading the implementation and development of the Association’s strategic plan, focusing on four integral areas: Education and Training, Community Needs and Programs, Government Relations, and Marketing. She also formed the Cooperative Marketing Initiative, which encouraged tourism-related businesses to actively and collectively promote their products.

Commissioner Nicholson-Doty has served on many community boards including the Small Business Development Agency, Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean Society of Hotel Association Executives. She is married to Randall Doty and has one son, Paris O. Nicholson IV.

GREGORY A. O’DELL serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, which owns and operates the 2.3 million-sq. ft. Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the historic Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The Authority also operates the non-military functions of the District of Columbia Armory and serves as owner/landlord of Nationals Park.

As president and CEO, O’Dell oversees the Authority’s two lines of business: Convention Center Operations and Sports, Entertainment and Special Events. His primary responsibilities include oversight of the development and promotion of hospitality, athletic, entertainment and cultural events that generate economic impact and create community benefits for the District of Columbia. Related to the convention center operations, O’Dell was also responsible for the Authority’s development efforts, having led negotiations with the selected private developer in the public-private partnership for the 1,175-room Washington Marriott Marquis hotel.

R. DONAHUE PEEBLES, recognized as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the nation, is the owner of The Peebles Corporation, the country's largest African-American real estate development company with a $4 billion development portfolio of luxury hotels, high-rise residential and Class A commercial properties and developments in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami Beach.

The 50 year old, who has been featured in numerous publications and appears regularly on CNN, CNBC and FOX, is also a top-selling author. His first book, The Peebles Principles, distills the lessons he learned on the road to building his successful company and personal fortune. His first-person accounts of his most intriguing deals illustrate the principles that guide Mr. Peebles in all of his transactions. His second book, The Peebles Path to Real Estate Wealth, released in September 2008, outlines the fundamental tools for real estate investing and details how to make money in any market.  Peebles currently serves on the National Finance Committee of President Barack Obama.

Dr. PHYLLIS QUALLS-BROOKS serves as assistant commissioner for community and industry relations for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. She joined the department in the Spring of 2004 as assistant commissioner of marketing and moved to her current position in 2005.

In her role, Qualls-Brooks communicates department policies and initiatives to the tourism industry as well as other stakeholders. She coordinates various departmental activities, including the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and is responsible for strengthening collaborative relationships that engender a common purpose among the state’s tourism industry partners. Additionally, Qualls-Brooks is responsible for the development of the department’s education initiative and works with members of the community and the academic profession in this role.

As assistant commissioner, she supervises the department’s regional managers, who serve as liaisons between the department and the tourism industry. Qualls-Brooks, along with the managers, works to promote department services, market tourism activities and assist partners, which support and encourage the state’s expanding tourism reach. She also serves as public information officer and coordinates communication efforts on behalf of the department with the Governor’s Communication staff.

serves as vice president, Strategic Alliances, overseeing the corporate partnership program and member sales and services. In this position, Richards’ duties include setting the membership sales and service standard for the bureau, overseeing the production of all member-based publications and maintaining the day-to-day operations of the member services department. Richards, who has been with the bureau for 21 years, began her career in the communications department, where she handled local, national, regional and international trade media. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Public Relations and a minor in Business Marketing. Her affiliations include Public Relations Society of America, Dallas/Fort Worth Area Tourism Council, Dallas Community Police Awards Committee, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Dallas Zoological Society Board member and University of North Texas Alumni Association Board Member. As part of the Dallas CVB “Better to Best” program, Richards’ goal is to reach out to traditional and non-traditional companies and educate them on the importance of travel industry in the North Texas area. She understands the correlation between collaborating with the Dallas CVB and increased visibility for the company in the business world and is an advocate for the bureau and local business.

serves as chairman and CEO of the Roberts companies. Author of Action Has No Season, Strategies and Secrets to Gaining Wealth and Authority In 2008, Roberts was inducted into Morehouse College’s Renaissance Leaders Hall of Fame, and in 2007 was awarded the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Over the past 30 years, Roberts has amassed a $500 million business empire including television stations, downtown lofts, a historic theatre, the Roberts Hotel Group, the largest commercial office building outside of downtown St. Louis, strip malls, and a resort community in the Bahamas. He is currently a member of President Obama’s National Council on Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Federal Communications Commission’s Diversity Council. He serves or has served on the Board of Directors of the following organizations: International Council of Shopping Centers, Trustee; National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers – Chairman; and National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.

JOHN ROLFE is a native Kansan, born and raised in Wichita. Since October 2001, he has served as president and CEO of Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau. Before joining the CVB, he was vice president of Economic Development for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and served as deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce for five years. His experience also includes more than 12 years in the hospitality industry, including serving as Director of Finance and Administration at both the Wichita and San Jose (CA) Convention and Visitors Bureaus. He’s currently serving on the DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International) Board of Directors.

Rolfe is a graduate of Wichita State University, holding a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is involved with various civic organizations. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, Travel Industry Association of Kansas (Immediate Past President), Governor’s Council on Travel & Tourism, and Wichita Collegiate School. John also serves on the Mayor’s Downtown Revitalization Steering Committee.

He is married to Felicia Rolfe and they have two daughters. In his spare time, Rolfe enjoys spending time with his family, playing racquetball, dining out, and traveling.

FRANCES HARRIS SMILEY, CTIS, TMP, a 30+ year career Alabama State Employee is the supervisor of the eight Alabama Welcome Centers and serves as the coordinator of the State’s Heritage Tourism Program. She has served as the assistant director of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and prior to this appointment she served on the Governor's Cabinet for Tourism in the Siegleman Administration. She was responsible for the state's group tour marketing initiatives for 22 years. She is the author of the nation's first Black Heritage Tourism Guide. In 1994, she received the Phoenix Award from the American Society of Travel Writers, a delegate to the Nation's First White House Conference on Travel and Tourism. In August 1997 she received the Nation's first "Trailblazer Pioneer Award for Multicultural Tourism," from the Multicultural Tourism Conference, and the award is henceforth named, "The Frances Smiley Trailblazer Award."

Smiley was recognized by Black Meetings and Tourism magazine as one of the "Most Influential African Americans in Tourism" in the United States in '97-'09. In July of 1999 She was inducted in the Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame, in May 2003 into the West Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame, and in May of 2008 received the APEX Award for outstanding service to the industry from BM&T.

MONICA SMITH was hired in July 2010 as the new president/CEO to realign the 30-year-old Macon CVB’s sales, services, marketing and branding efforts, particularly in regards to meetings business with the city’s newest convention hotel adjacent to its 110,000-sq. ft. convention center. A graduate of Cornell University, Smith is a member of MPI, DMAI, HSMAI, ASAE, NCBMP, CMCA and the Georgia Association of CVBs, and has earned designations as CMP, CASE and CDME.

, has served as president and COO of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), since November 2008. AHLEI is a subsidiary of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA).

As president and COO, Steele oversees the day-to-day operations of the Educational Institute, as well as develops the overall vision and strategies in conjunction with the board of trustees. Steele’s responsibilities also include representing AHLEI as its spokesperson and leader, formulating profitable and productive strategic business alliances to enhance AHLEI, increasing penetration of the international markets, and enhancing marketing efforts within the industry.

Prior to his present position, Steele had spent his entire 30+ year career with Hyatt Hotels Corporation, serving as general manager of the Grand Hyatt Tampa, Hyatt Regency Baltimore, Baltimore, Md.; Hyatt Regency Washington, Washington, D.C.; and Hyatt Fairlakes, Fairfax, Va., prior to his current position. Steele is also a past chairman of AH&LA, having held the position of 2007 chairman of the board.

CALVIN TAYLOR is vice president of Government Relations for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he works closely with state government, city officials and the local hospitality industry in Memphis in enhancing the development and growth of Memphis tourism. In addition he serves as the bureau's director of the Memphis tourism education foundation, which administers the city's official hospitality tourism training program.

Taylor is co-founder of the Beale street development corporation, the organization that reintroduced the historic district as a tourist destination. He also worked as publicity director at Southland Racing Corporation, the southeast's largest pari-mutuel waging center. Additionally he is a member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and is a past chairman of the Tennessee Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Besides being a major player in the state's tourism industry for many years, he has also served the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable (TTR) faithfully as a board member, TTR Government Relations Committee member and chair, and chair of the annual TTR salute to the legislature. This past year he has served as vice-chair of TTR and will be serving as chair during 2011. Taylor was named as the recipient of the 2010 Tennessee Tourism Roundtable Knight of the Roundtable Award, an award given in recognition of an individual for their outstanding contributions of leadership, service, and professionalism to the Tennessee tourism industry and for their involvement with and service to the Tennessee tourism.

MELVIN TENNANT is president and chief executive officer of Meet Minneapolis, the official convention and visitors association. He became the organization’s second CEO in 2006. Since joining Meet Minneapolis, Tennant has overseen convention sales and marketing programs that bring an economic impact of approximately $11 billion to the area. With an annual budget of $ 9million and a staff of 50, he played an integral role in laying the groundwork and implementing logistics for Minneapolis Saint Paul’s successful hosting of the 2008 Republican National Convention. Additionally, Tennant oversees the management and operations of iDSS, a private company that delivers a complete web-based series of software applications for destination marketing organizations, associations, hotels and corporations.

Bringing more than 25 years experience in destination sales and marketing to Meet Minneapolis, Tennant has served on the boards of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Minneapolis Downtown Council, the Airport Foundation MSP and March of Dimes – Minnesota Chapter. In addition, Tennant has served on the boards of the Travel Industry Association, the ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership, Meeting Professionals International (MPI), and the MPI Foundation, and is a past chairman of DMAI.

During his career Tennant has received many accolades, most notably the RMCA’s President Award, MPI’s Chapter Legacy Award – Carolina Chapter, and Black Meetings & Tourism magazine’s APEX Award. Tennant received his B.A. from Rice University and holds an Association Executive Certificate from ASAE.

ALBERT TUCKER serves as vice president of Multicultural Business Development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB). It is Tucker’s vision to expose ethnically diverse individuals and groups to Greater Fort Lauderdale so that GFL becomes the destination of choice for individuals of color. A key part of the outreach is to identify and support infrastructure and tourism projects that will facilitate multicultural visitor growth.

For the past ten years, Tucker has helped increase multicultural participation in the tourism and convention sales market by more than 40%. During summer 2010 more than 150 family reunions chose Greater Fort Lauderdale as their gathering place. With the combined numbers from other multicultural summer business Greater Fort Lauderdale realized an economic impact of more than $5 million to the community.

Tucker has been the visionary in the development of The Gospel Complex for Education and Preservation, which will be located in Lauderhill, FL. This $50 million project will provide the gospel music industry with a home to preserve the rich history of this genre and will serve as a center for economic and educational empowerment for all. The Gospel Complex is scheduled for completion in mid 2012. In addition to his public service, Tucker currently serves on the Executive Board of the Urban League of Broward County the 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale and is intimately involved with the expansion of Jazz in the Gardens musical festival, which brings in more than 50,000 visitors to South Florida.

CAROL WALLACE, president & CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, is responsible for the overall management, marketing and operation of the San Diego Convention Center. She joined the corporation in 1991 and oversees a full-time and part-time staff of 550 and an annual budget that exceeds $32 million. Her latest achievements include: being selected to serve on the board of directors for the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA); receiving the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Center on Policy Initiatives; and being named one of the Most Influential African Americans in the Meetings/Tourism Industry by Black Meetings & Tourism for the second year in a row. Wallace has 30 years of experience in the convention and facility management industry.

is an accomplished senior executive in the tourism and hospitality industry with outstanding credentials and a proven record of results. Across all of her professional posts she has consistently maintained diligent focus on growth in productivity and made bottom-line profitability a priority.

As president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Young recommends and implements all contractual and vendor services, directs all recruiting processes and participates in selection of PCCA employees. She oversees marketing, public relations and customer service programs as well as development of budgets, financial policies and fiscal controls for the operation of the PCCA.

Young currently sits on boards for Sunoco Welcome America!, Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Art Sanctuary, MANNA, North Philadelphia Health Systems, Philadelphia Academies, National Forum for Black Public Administrators, Mount Airy USA, and the Philadelphia Airport. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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