Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: November/December 2012
Most Influential African-Americans In Meetings/Tourism Industry
By: Gloria M. Herbert
It’s that time of year again for BM&T’s annual review of the progress and success of those African-Americans who continue to make significant strides in our industry. This is our opportunity to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and contributions of our brothers and sisters who have managed to perform at the highest professional levels despite the challenging economic times we have all faced in recent years.
 
A few familiar faces are gone from this year’s list. Jessie Allen, after more than 33 years within the Orange County Government, during which he served a variety of posts, including as general manager of the Orange County Convention Center, has retired. So glad we presented him with BM&T’s Apex Award in 2011 while has was still at the Center. Also gone is Tanya Hall, longtime executive director of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC), who exited the hospitality industry for a position in the corporate world. She is a good friend and will be missed.

New on the list this year is Julie Coker, senior vice president for the Philadelphia CVB and a former Hyatt general manager who has appeared on the pages of Black Meetings & Tourism numerous times in the past. Also new is Nicole Johnson-Reece, who replaces Hall as executive director at the Philadelphia MAC, and Tony Gladney, vice president of National Diversity Relations for Caesars Entertainment Corporation.

Bennish Brown is back, but this time at the president/CEO of the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau, after leaving his post as executive director of the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Rock Hill, SC. Also coming back in a different role is John Rolfe, former CEO and president of Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau, who now serves as chief operating officer of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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.



LARRY ALEXANDER
, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB) and a 31-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.

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. In the realm of professional association meetings, Alexander led the team that won for Detroit the 2015 convention of the American Society of Association Executives, considered the “Super Bowl” of conventions.

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 Michigan Society of Association Executives, The Parade Company (Detroit), The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, The Detroit Zoological Society, New Detroit and Forgotten Harvest.



LARRY ATCHISON serves as Associate Director of Sales, Services & Sports at the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). In his position, Atchison has the primary responsibility of working with organizations based in the Northeast and working with convention and sports sales initiatives within the bureau.

Atchison, a 30-year veteran of the hospitality and meeting industry, has been with ACVB for 20 years. After serving as ACVB’s National Sales Manager for four years in Washington, D.C., he returned to Albuquerque in 2006. He also served as Interim Vice President of Convention Sales & Services for the Bureau in 2010.



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 27 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, Secretary/Treasurer of the Destination & Travel Foundation, Richmond 2015 board member for the UCI World Road Cycling Championship, Destination Marketing Association International Sales & Marketing Committee and board member for the Manchester YMCA.



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 26 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.



KATHLEEN JACKSON BERTRAND
, 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 staff member in the history of the organization.

Bertrand serves on numerous industry and civic 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.” She is a highly requested speaker for college and high school programs that focus on hospitality and its diverse career options. Under her direction the ACVB publishes its African-American visitor publication, Atlanta Heritage Guide, which just celebrated its 23th consecutive year in print in 2012. Bertrand’s most recent projects include the production of the BronzeLens Film Festival, a new film festival, now in its third year, that celebrates Atlanta as both a destination and the new mecca for film and film production by people of color, and the Hospitality Career Fair, an annual event which opens the doors to employment opportunities within Atlanta’s hospitality industry to graduating seniors, to those within the industry looking to change, and to those persons from other industries with transferable skill sets looking for entre into the hospitality industry.

Bertrand is also 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, most recently she was the headliner, along with jazz great Roy Ayers, at the 35th Atlanta Jazz Festival. Bertrand’s discography includes 5 CDs, including her newest 2011 CD release “Katharsis.”



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. Among other things, 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.



BENNISH D. BROWN serves as the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau’s [TRCVB] new president and CEO. Brown has a strong background in the destination marketing industry and served the last 12 years as the executive director of Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitor Bureau in South Carolina.

Brown, who began his work at the TRCVB in June., leads the TRCVB’s staff of 15 and reports to the TRCVB’s board of directors. While at Rock Hill/York County CVB, Brown grew the organization’s budget from $200,000 to $1.1million in seven years, led the organization to become the first Destination Marketing Association International [DMAI] accredited CVB in the state, managed a merger between the CVB and Sports Commission, hosted a Ladies Professional Golf Association [LPGA] event and more.



RONNIE BURT
, a seasoned sales and marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry, serves as vice president of Sales and Services for Destination DC and most recently was senior vice president of Sales and Service for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.

In this role, Burt oversees a team of 25 people that include leading strategic sales and service efforts, housing and business development for the nation’s capital and its growing convention facilities, to include the new Washington Marriott Marquis.

Burt began his career in marketing at Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. He joined the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority as an intern and quickly moved up through the sales ranks to national sales manager. He joined the Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association in 1999 as director of national accounts, eventually leading its sales efforts in the role as vice president of convention sales and services. In 2006, Burt served as the interim president and CEO, where he managed a staff of more than 50 employees and a $9 million budget. Burt has also worked for Starwood Hotels and Resorts in Atlanta, GA.



CLARA CARTER is the president and founder of the Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network (MCCSN), Inc. This San Diego-based destination/meeting management company is focused on global site selection and contract negotiations for groups and organizations seeking exciting destinations for meetings, conferences and conventions. A 20-year veteran of the Hospitality Industry, Carter has distinguished herself as the creator and producer of the nationally known Multicultural FAM tour. This tour is customized to give clients the unique view of a city by incorporating its exciting ethnic & cultural features. The FAM Tour was first launched in San Diego. In FY09/10, Carter was a successful bidder for funds earmarked for multicultural marketing by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District. MCCSN is the only independent meeting management company in San Diego County that has realized the importance of adhering to the needs of an often-underserved segment of the market, the ethnic conference and its attendees.

Prior to establishing MCCSN, Carter, a native San Diegan, was employed at a major San Diego corporation. The experience with Corporate America prepared her well as she initially spread entrepreneurial wings with Creative Visions Meetings and Events. Carter is a much sought after speaker and industry expert on issues surrounding multicultural tourism and diversity.

National, state and local recognitions include: 2011 BM&T APEX Award for Distinguished Service in tourism; 2010 Small Business of the Year Award – Southern Region of California; 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); 2007 the International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals named Ms. Carter Meeting Planner of the Year. And for three consecutive years (2009-2011), Black Meetings and Tourism has recognized her as one of the most Influential African Americans in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry.



JULIE COKER is senior vice president, Convention Division, for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PCVB). Coker oversees a staff of 25 convention sales and services professionals who are responsible for selling the expanding Pennsylvania Convention Center and Philadelphia’s hotel package to customers across the country.

Coker joined the PCVB after serving as general manager at Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing. In her role, Coker oversaw all operational aspects of the 350-room hotel, which is the only hotel in the city located on Philadelphia’s revitalized waterfront area. Among her responsibilities were: directing all hotel and employee operations such as managing the assets and providing monthly profit and loss statements, maintaining legal compliance, assessing financial or product issues, and outlining sales and marketing strategies, while providing guidance, mentorship, and leadership to the employees and managers of the hotel.

A 20-year Hyatt veteran, Coker began her career there in 1989 as a corporate management trainee at Hyatt Regency Columbus and held various positions at the hotel until 1992. She also held full-time positions, including assistant front office manager, front office manager, hotel assistant manager and assistant executive housekeeper at Hyatt Regency O’Hare. In 1994, she was promoted to her first room executive position at Hyatt Deerfield (Chicago) and held the same position at Hyatt Regency Cincinnati before being appointed to join the opening team and lead the rooms division at Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in March 1998. In 1998, she was promoted to General Manager at Hyatt on Printer’s Row in downtown Chicago. From there, she was promoted to general manager at The Lodge, a Hyatt property in Oak Brook, a suburb of Chicago.

Coker is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, where she received a bachelor of science in Hospitality Management and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She has been a nominee for Hotelier of the Year for IHLA in 2005 and 2006. She was also a nominee for General Manager of the year for Hyatt Hotels Corporation 2004 and 2006. She was recently the recipient of the 2011John Wanamaker Award (Individual Award) given by the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity.



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 26 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
is an accomplished veteran of more than 31 years in the convention center industry. He has been with SMG since 2003, where he serves as a senior consultant of convention center operations and labor relations, and also currently as general manager of the Albuquerque Convention Center. 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, he 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. He 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, and the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners.



ELLIOTT FERGUSON serves as president and CEO of Destination DC, the official convention and tourism corporation for the nation’s capital.

A 21-year veteran of the CVB industry, Ferguson leads Destination DC’s efforts to generate economic development for the District through meetings and tourism, overseeing the organization’s convention and tourism sales, marketing, finance and business development operations.

Ferguson began his tenure with Destination DC in 2001 as vice president of Convention Sales and Services. 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. His many memberships in the industry include 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.

Ferguson currently serves on the Downtown Business Improvement District, The Military Bowl, The Historical Society of Washington, DC and the Franciscan Monastery USA Inc.’s Board of Directors. Ferguson is a longtime resident of Capitol Hill, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and is an active mentor with Capital Partners Inc.



VALERIE FERGUSON
serves as regional vice president of Operations for Loews Atlanta Hotel. With three decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Ferguson 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 by Ebony, Ms. Ferguson continues to be a leader in hospitality and tourism across the country. Ferguson 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. She actively participates in numerous businesses, civic and educational endeavors and travels throughout the country to key hospitality industry events as well as high schools and colleges to emphasize the importance of hospitality and tourism as vital components in the nation’s economy. In an effort to strengthen the industry, she urges fellow hoteliers to seek out young men and women who represent “the promise of a new generation” and to create diverse leadership programs reflective of today’s America.



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, Mr. 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.

Fernandez is a trustee of Johnson & Wales University, a member of the board of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and a Life Member of the NAACP. He is a member of The Women’s Chef’s & Restaurateurs Association, the National Council of La Raza, The Women’s Foodservice Forum and the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners.



TONY GLADNEY
is vice president of National Diversity Relations for Caesars Entertainment Corporation, the world’s most geographically diversified casino-entertainment company. Caesars Entertainment is headquartered in Las Vegas, owns, operates and manages more than 50 casino resorts in seven countries. Gladney is responsible for assisting with the implementation of the diversity initiative. He is the chief liaison officer for the company's strategic partner relations locally and nationally.

Gladney has served in various roles including Community, Governmental, and Diversity Affairs in the gaming industry.



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 28 years of industry experience.



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 nine 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.



CHARLOTTE HAYMORE
, 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. Herbert was a member of the first graduating class of the Burklyn Accelerated Business School in Vermont; an innovative school with a high-speed, experiential entrepreneurship program that emphasized a noncompetitive, "win-win" approach to doing business.

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.



AL HUTCHINSON
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 serves on a number of boards and committees. He currently serves as a board member for the Virginia Beach Aquarium. He is a past board member of the Urban League of Hampton Roads and the Hilltop YMCA. His most recent appointment includes serving as the Chair of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Industry Partner Alliance (IPA).

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. Most recently, Hutchinson is a 2012 NAACP Trailblazer Award recipient from the Virginia Beach branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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



ANDREW INGRAHAM is the founder and serves as president/CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers, Inc. (NABHOOD). NABHOOD was formed 2001 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. At that time, there was only one African-American franchised hotel in the country. Today there are over 500.

Ingraham is also president of Horizons Marketing Group Intl. Inc., a marketing, government and public relations firm with special emphases on African-American multicultural tourism and investment strategies. He has over 26 years in the tourism industry, developing specific expertise in multicultural and Caribbean tourism. Because of his knowledge and expertise, he is a constant source for articles and has been featured or quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Black Enterprise, National Public Radio, Hotel Business, Black Meetings & Tourism magazine and a host of other publications and media outlets. Horizons created a number of programs for Caribbean destinations seeking to access the growing African-American/ multicultural tourism & investment market.

Ingraham is a constant speaker at national conferences and meetings speaking on hotel investment and development opportunities. He is responsible for a number of hotel investment conferences and workshops in corroboration with the hotel chains and International Franchise Association. Some accomplishments are: appointed to the National Tourism Advisory Committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); appointed to the White House Conference on Tourism; founded and hosted the Annual International African-American Hotel Ownership & Investment 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.



ROY JAY has made an impressionable footprint in the convention and tourism industry since 1993. This Portland, Oregon business entrepreneur is more than just a marketer of convention and tourism products for his city; he has transformed himself into his own “brand”. If you have been in the minority convention and tourism circles for more than five years, then you will undoubtedly have heard his name, read his story or benefited from his business expertise. Jay makes no apology for his slogan “everybody has to get paid” and he makes attempts to always share the wealth with others that understand and appreciate paying it forward.

He’s not an avid sports fan, instead in his growth years; he spent more time in business and law classes than anyone of his age back in the 70’s.  Known to many as a “team player”, he was the architect of minority convention FAM trips dating back nearly two decades ago when he still holds the record for the longest and most successful FAM trip ever held to promote minority convention and meeting professionals – 10 full days.

Mostly everything he does is in “grand style” which will leave meeting planners, association executives and even competitors with a smile on their faces. For instance, most recently, Jay has carved out another niche through his partnership with Travel Portland and others to host one of the most successful receptions in Washington DC as a kick off to Congressional Black Caucus week. Last September, the entire ballroom of a major hotel was transformed into a VIP reception, which required screening tighter than TSA at a local airport. In attendance were nearly 200 preapproved meeting planners, association executives, politicians, business people, professionals, convention colleagues and competitors from coast to coast.

Not only was there your customary food and refreshments provided, but Jay along with colleagues, supporters and sponsors made absolutely sure that everyone from the photographers to musician were people of color for the standing room only event. Over 200 overflowed into the streets of downtown Washington DC, hoping to win cash or one of the several all-expense paid trips. Mary Wilson of the legendary Supremes was the headline entertainment at this year’s bash. The hotel is always extremely pleased when you have a customer like Roy Jay. One that makes sure that every detail is handled in advance including full payment in advance, before he sets foot onto the property.

Jay’s connectivity in the convention, tourism and business industry and his open willingness to help others along speaks volumes to the hospitality that potential customers can expect when they book business in the City of Roses, Portland, Oregon. His most recent business endeavor includes his joint partnership which acquired a $4 million 7600 square foot restaurant which will be Portland’s only five star dining experiences. Roy holds multiple titles locally and nationally and spends time on the road as speaker, trainer, collaborator and supporter for both profit and nonprofit ventures.

His brainchild, Project Clean Slate has won national acclaim for assisting thousands of individuals get a second chance in life by expunging minor criminal convictions and converting delinquent traffic fines into meaningful community service.



ROBERT L. JOHNSON is the founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies, an innovative business network that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies. Within The RLJ Companies portfolio, Johnson owns or holds interests in businesses operating in hotel real estate investment; private equity; financial services; asset management; insurance services; automobile dealerships; sports and entertainment; and video lottery terminal (VLT) gaming.

Prior to forming The RLJ Companies, Johnson was founder and chairman of Black Entertainment Television (BET), the nation’s first and leading television network providing quality entertainment, music, news, sports and public affairs programming for the African-American audience. Under Mr. Johnson’s leadership, BET became the first African-American-owned company publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2000, Johnson sold BET to Viacom and remained the CEO through 2005.

From 1976-79, Johnson served as vice president of Government Relations for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), a trade association representing more than 1,500 cable television companies. Prior to joining the NCTA, Johnson was press secretary for the Honorable Walter E. Fauntroy, Congressional Delegate from the District of Columbia.

Johnson holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies from the University of Illinois.




NICOLE JOHNSON-REECE
was recently appointed as the new executive director of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC), a division of the PCVB responsible for increasing Philadelphia’s share of the multicultural meetings, conventions and tourism markets.

Johnson-Reece will work with the PCVB team to promote Philadelphia to a multicultural client base that includes religious organizations, family reunions, national and regional associations, fraternal organizations, and professional and trade associations. She will also work with the hospitality community to encourage business, employment and training opportunities for multicultural professionals within Philadelphia’s tourism and hospitality sector.

With over 20 years of experience in finance, consumer marketing, brand strategy and talent management, Johnson-Reece brings a bottom line, focused approach to the PCVB and MAC. She has valuable professional relationships within the multicultural convention market among leading PCVB-booked national organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza and the National Urban League. Her ability to develop and implement diversity and inclusion strategies allows organizations to reach untapped markets, deliver culturally appropriate messages, increase inclusive behaviors in their leaders and positively impact the company’s revenue stream.

Johnson-Reece has served as the first diversity leader for two Fortune 500 companies, most recently, as vice president, global diversity and inclusion for ARAMARK Corporation.

Prior to joining ARAMARK, Johnson-Reece served as the vice president, diversity and inclusion, with the Cendant Hospitality Group (Wyndham Worldwide), again serving as their first focused diversity leader. Prior to that, she held a variety of positions in multicultural marketing and finance with Verizon and AT&T. She was named one of the “Top Blacks in the Lodging Industry” by Black Meetings and Tourism magazine and one of the “Top 100 Blacks in Corporate America” by Black Professionals magazine.



OSCAR C. MCGASKEY, JR. is the Executive Director of the Kansas City Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department. Oscar oversees the Convention Center, Kemper Arena, American Royal Center and the new 18,000-seat Sprint Center. Under his leadership the Convention and Entertainment Facilities has generated an operating surplus in the past six (6) consecutive years and the Convention Center has been recognized by Facilities & Destinations Magazine as one of the best managed facilities in the country. Oscar also has responsibility for a $40 million operation budget.



MICHAEL D. 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 22-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.
 
In 2010, he was selected as a recipient of the BM&T Tenth Annual APEX DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD, presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their particular field of endeavor that have positively impacted travel and tourism. Munn holds a B.A. in Economics from Boston University and a Masters of Education from Cambridge College. He is also a member of the Multicultural Advisory Committee of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau and an active member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.



CURTIS L. MYLES III
, a native Nevadan, began his career in transportation after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Colorado State University while attending on an 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. Curtis 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 the position of president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Monorail Company in July of 2005.

He holds both Bachelor of Science and master’s degrees in economics and teaches economics part-time at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He is married and has three daughters.



BEVERLY NICHOLSON-DOTY
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 strategy, its national and international tourism-related efforts and product development.

Since her appointment, the U.S. Virgin Islands has experienced noteworthy growth in airlift, making the destination among the most easily accessible in the Caribbean from key markets in the United States, Canada and Europe. The destination has also enjoyed significant growth in cruise arrivals, particularly on the island of St. Croix, as a result of strategic rebranding of the destination, numerous product development initiatives, and aggressive lobbying of the cruise industry. Considered by many to be the hidden gem of the USVI, today St. Croix is gaining popularity among travelers for its unique cultural offerings, historical attractions, and natural beauty.

Notwithstanding her achievements in the global marketing arena, Nicholson-Doty holds most dear the initiatives she has implemented locally. In 2008 she launched a Territory-wide tourism awareness campaign to actively engage the local community in the tourism industry and to promote excellence in customer service. The campaign has led hundreds of businesses, industry employees, and students throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands to take the Department of Tourism pledge of service excellence.

Nicholson-Doty began her career in the hotel industry, while attending the College of the Virgin Islands. Quickly rising the ranks from reservations clerk to director of marketing and sales, her hotel experience spanned three of the U.S. Virgin Islands where she gained an appreciation for the unique offering of each island.

In 1993, Nicholson-Doty joined the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel & Tourism Association as its Executive Director. She presided over the unification of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association with the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association to create an integrated Association that strengthens the entire U.S. Virgin Islands hotel product. In 2004 she was appointed President of the unified Hotel and Tourism Association.

Nicholson-Doty has served as Commissioner of the USVI Department of Tourism since 2007 and was elected Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Council of Ministers and Commissioners during the 2012 CTO State of the Industry Conference in St. Kitts.



GREGORY A. O’DELL serves as the president and chief executive officer of Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia. Events DC owns and operates the 2.3 million-sq. ft. Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the historic Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and surrounding Festival Grounds, Maloof Skate Park at RFK Stadium and the non-military functions of the DC Armory. The organization also built and now serves as the landlord for Nationals Park, the first LEED-certified major professional sports stadium in the United States and administers the historic Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square.

As president and CEO, O’Dell oversees Events DC’s three lines of business: Conventions and Meetings, Sports and Entertainment and Special Events. His primary responsibilities include oversight of the development and promotion of hospitality, athletic, entertainment and cultural activities that generate economic and create community benefits for the District of Columbia.

O’Dell also oversees the organization’s development efforts which include oversight of the private developer in the public-private partnership for the 1,175-room Washington Marriott Marquis hotel. Scheduled to open in 2014, the Washington Marriott Marquis hotel will create more than 2,000 construction and permanent hotel jobs in the District of Columbia.



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.

Donahue, 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.



CHERYL RICHARDS was recently appointed senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO) for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau (Dallas CVB), a newly created position. The 24-year Bureau veteran will create and implement a strategic plan to elevate the DCVB as a leader in diversity and inclusion at the local, national and international levels. She will report to Dallas CVB President and CEO Phillip Jones and serve as the liaison to the newly formed Diversity & Inclusion Ad-hoc committee, chaired by Monica R. Alonzo, Councilmember, City of Dallas. Part of the Dallas CVB’s mission is to market Dallas as the ideal convention and visitor destination for women, multicultural, multigenerational and LGBT groups.

Richards most recently served as Dallas CVB’s vice president of Strategic Alliances responsible for establishing the membership sales and service standard for the bureau, overseeing corporate partnerships, member-based publications and daily operations of the member services department.

Richards received her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. She is a member of several community organizations including Dallas Fort Worth Area Tourism Council, Dallas Zoological Society board of directors, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) Foundation Board of Directors (US Council).




MICHAEL V. ROBERTS 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 was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. Since March 2012, John has served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau (GHCVB). Before joining GHCVB, John was the CEO and President of Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau. He also has served as the Vice President of Economic Development for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and as Deputy Secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce. During his eighteen years in the hospitality industry, he has served as Director of Finance and Administration at both the Wichita and San Jose (CA) Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Rolfe is a graduate of Wichita State University, Wichita, KS, holding a bachelor’s degree in business administration and has been involved with various boards and civic organizations. He currently serves as a Board of Director for the Texas Travel Industry Association and Destination Marketing Association International.



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-'11. 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, CMP, CASE, CDME is president & CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. This year the MBCCVB will continue proactive focus on convention and group tour sales and provide training and education to assist partners in enhancing customer service. A Cornell University graduate, Smith is a member of MPI and the NCBMP. She also serves on the Destination Travel Foundation Board of Trustees and the boards of the Southeast Tourism Society and Georgia Association of CVBs.

 

ROBERT L. STEELE, III
, CHA, is president and COO of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (EI).

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

With more than 30 years of hospitality experience, Steele has spent his entire career with Hyatt Hotels Corporation, serving as general manager of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay; the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, Baltimore, Md.; Hyatt Regency Washington, Washington, D.C.; and Hyatt Fairlakes, Fairfax, Va., prior to his current position.

Steele is the past chairman of American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), having held the position of 2007 chairman of the board. An active and long-time supporter of AH&LA, Steele has served on various committees and boards, including the Strategic Planning Committee; Multicultural & Diversity Advisory Council; Membership/Sales & Marketing Committee; Credit Card Advisory Council; Financial Management Committee; Lodging Industry Rating Advisory Committee; ADA Task Force; Audit, Certification & Credentials Committee; Engineering & Environment Committee; Human Resources Council; and Loss Prevention Committee.



ZITA STEGLICH-ROSS has served as the director of Convention Sales at the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau since February of 2008. In this post she is tasked with managing the daily operations of the convention sales department and assisting in the development of sales and marketing strategies for Orlando's meetings and convention industry. She also serves as the Bureau’s senior national sales executive, a position she has held since September of 1998, responsible for citywide accounts in the Northeast territory and citywide African-American accounts nationwide. These accounts consist of a minimum of 60,000 gross sq. ft., and a maximum 2,000,000 sq. ft. exhibit space.

Prior to joining the CVB, Steglich-Ross was a senior sales manager at InterContinental Hotels Group, and before that, a sales manager at both the Hyatt Regency Miami and the Sheraton Kensington Hotel. Steglich-Ross, who has been a supplier for the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners for over 18 years, holds a degree in accounting from Tulsa Community College.



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. Last year he served as chair of TTR after serving as vice-chair during 2010.

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 2008. Since joining Meet Minneapolis, Tennant has overseen convention sales and marketing programs that bring direct economic impact of approximately of $900 million to the area. With an annual budget of $9 million and a staff of 50, he recently oversaw the effort to reposition the destination's brand, using the new tagline: "Minneapolis, City by Nature." He also 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. Tennant has proved himself a leader in the travel industry with his current involvement on the boards of the U.S. Travel Association, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA). Previously, he served on the boards of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Center for Association Leadership, Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the MPI Foundation, and is a past chairman of the Destination Marketing Association International (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 bachelor’s degree from Rice University, master’s degree in Christian Leadership Studies from Liberty University and holds an Association Executive Certification 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 eleven 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, Carol Wallace is president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, where she has led the bayside facility for over 20 years. She is responsible for the overall strategic direction, management and operation of the facility, oversees a full-time and part-time staff of more than 525 and an annual budget that exceeds $33 million. Under her leadership, the San Diego Convention Center has become one of the most successful facilities in the nation.
In her 30 year career, Wallace has earned a reputation as a top industry executive working for the Dallas Convention Center as well as the Colorado Convention Center. When she came to San Diego in 1991, she played a pivotal leadership role convincing key constituents to expand the San Diego Convention Center, resulting in an expansion opening in 2001. She is currently working with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and community stakeholders on the Phase 3 Expansion of the Convention Center, which is expected to open in late 2016.

Wallace’s hard work and dedication have earned her numerous industry accolades and appointments. Currently she is serving on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, a group responsible for advising the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce and Homeland Security on ways to strengthen the travel and tourism industry and expand economic opportunities for American businesses, including domestic job creation. Wallace also serves as the North American representative on the AIPC (International Association of Congress Centres) board of directors as well as the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) Education Foundation board of trustees. She is the past president of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), the world’s largest public assembly facility management association and past chair of the IAVM Foundation. In 2004 she received IAVM’s highest honor, the Charles A. McElravy Award, for her exceptional leadership and extraordinary career-long accomplishments.



AHMEENAH YOUNG, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, has been an influential voice in the tourism and hospitality industry for almost three decades. She leads the Center in developing its organizational policies to support providing the best customer-focused experience in the convention marketplace. She oversaw the $786 million expansion project that has increased the site’s footprint to more than one-million square feet, achieving a women and minority-owned business participation rate of 32 percent.

Young was general manager of Philadelphia’s Independence Visitor Center Corp. and vice president of corporate diversity for SearchWide, LLC. She sits on the boards of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Welcome America!, Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality, Philadelphia Academies, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, National Forum for Black Public Administrators, Philadelphia International Airport, Hahnemann University Hospital, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, Central City District, Reading Terminal Market and the Art Sanctuary advisory committee.
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