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The capacity to learn is a gift;

the ability to learn is a skill;

the willingness to learn is a choice.

Young Businesswomen

Your Hosts

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David Kong

When David Kong retired as President and Chief Executive Officer of BWH Hotel Group at the end of 2021, he did so as the longest-running CEO of any major hotel company. His leadership and legacy, characterized by a genuine care for people and a passion for hospitality, attracted praise and respect from leading voices across the industry.  When he arrived in the United States from Hong Kong as a young adult, he had no money, no job, and no connections to offer support. He started as a dishwasher; and leaned into the values and work ethic instilled by his parents to rise through the ranks of the hospitality industry, culminating in his role as one of the industry’s most notable leaders. David led Best Western Hotels and Resorts to unprecedented growth, transforming the company and expanding its portfolio from one brand to 18 distinct brands in every chain scale segment and setting successive new records in RevPAR and EBITDA. Prior to Best Western Hotels & Resorts, David held leadership positions with KPMG Consulting, Hyatt, Omni and Hilton. David has received numerous awards and accolades including the inaugural Arne Sorenson Social Impact Award in 2022 and Life Time Achievement Awards from both Business Travel News and International Hospitality Investment Forum in 2022.

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Rachel Humphrey

Rachel Humphrey is a well-known Board Member, Speaker, Hospitality Industry Executive, and Counsel. She is also the Founder of the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance. Before retiring in August 2021, Rachel served as the EVP and COO of AAHOA, the nation's largest and most influential hotel owners association and served as a member of its Executive Leadership Team and at one time its Interim President & CEO. Rachel joined AAHOA in 2015 after more than 20 years as a trial lawyer. Rachel has been recognized as one of the most "Powerful People in USA Hospitality," one of the "Top 50 Women in Travel," and one of the most “Influential Women in Hospitality,” and has received numerous awards and recognitions for her leadership and service to the hospitality industry. Rachel currently serves on several boards and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and is dedicated to advancing women in leadership.

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Lan Elliott

Lan Elliott currently serves as Co-Chair and Advisory Board Member of Castell@College, a part of Castell, an AHLA Foundation Project, focused on advancing women in hospitality leadership.  Lan is an experienced hotel real estate and transactions executive, representing hotel owners and hotel brand companies for over 30 years.  Lan's hotel ownership experience includes Acacia Hospitality LLC, a hotel investment company she co-founded, and 10 years at Host Hotels & Resorts, where she closed on over $7 billion of transactions.  Lan's roles with brand companies include leadership roles with IHG and W Hotels in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.  Lan also worked with KPMG's Hospitality Real Estate Consulting practice.  She is the recipient of the 2022 Industry Recognition Award from the International Council on Hotel Restaurant, and Institutional Education.


About Us

The hospitality industry is diverse, but women and other minority groups continue to face a broken rung at the upper levels of management. DEI Advisors is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering personal success by sharing insights and learnings from industry leaders. While many companies are doing wonderful work in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, individuals must also be responsible for their own personal growth and career aspirations.


Through interviews with industry leaders, we hope to share learnings to help you:

  • Overcome conscious and unconscious bias

  • Feel comfortable seeking advancements

  • Triumph over structural barriers

  • Establish networks, advocates, and mentors

  • Find strength and resilience in the face of adversity

  • Manage work life balance



Interviews with DEI Advisors

We interview established industry leaders, life coaches, and executive recruiters and bring you stories of their triumphs and failures. Learn how they overcome their challenges and setbacks and excelled to their present stature. Each leader we interview is an advisor who can provide inspiration and motivation in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Bios and Interviews with DEI Advisors

We interview established industry leaders, life coaches and executive recruiters and bring you stories of their triumphs and failures. Learn how they overcome their challenges and setbacks and excelled to their present stature. Use the links below to access their valuable insights and perspectives. 

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Talene Staab
SVP & Brand Leader
HOME 2 Suites by Hilton

Talene Staab has spent 25 years with Hilton. She currently serves as the chief strategist for Home2 Suites by Hilton, one of the fastest growing brands in the industry.  Previously, Talene served as Global Head of Tru by Hilton, was the Vice President for Owner Experience & Engagement, helped to launch the Canopy by Hilton brand, and had extensive experience on the Embassy Suites brand team.  She credits her passion for hospitality to her parents’ restaurant in Boston, where everyone became a “regular” and home cooking was the specialty. Talene was recent;ly named one of the “Most Influential Women in Hospitality by Hotel Management Magazine and currently sits on the board of directors for Castell, an AHLA Foundation Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the development of high-potential women in hospitality.


Justin Knight
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Hospitality REIT, Inc.

Justin Knight is Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Apple Hospitality REIT, Inc., a publicly traded real estate investment trust that owns one of the largest portfolios of upscale, rooms-focused hotels in the United States. Justin has led the various Apple REIT Companies for two decades. Within the industry, he currently serves on the Marriott Owners Advisory Council, as President of the Residence Inn Association Board, and as Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and a member of its Executive Committee. He is also very active in supporting the community, serving as a member of the National Advisory Council for the Marriott School at Brigham Young University (BYU), the Board of Trustees for The Valentine, and the Board of Trustees for Venture Richmond.

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Kevin Carey
EVP & Chief Operating Officer
American Hotel & Lodging

Kevin Carey has served as AHLA’s Chief Operating Officer since 2017. In this role, he is responsible for all revenue generating operations including, membership engagement, partnership & business development, and conferences & events.  Kevin is also responsible for strategic planning and oversight of financial operations for AHLA and the AHLA Foundation.  Kevin works closely with AHLA’s CEO to guide the association. Prior to joining AHLA, Kevin held senior executive leadership roles at American Express Company and American Express Global Business Travel. Kevin has a breadth of experience across the travel and hospitality industries through his service as a board and executive committee member in numerous travel and tourism industry associations, including the US. Travel Association and the Travel Business Roundtable. He also presently serves as an advisory board member at both Johns Hopkins University and Penn State University.

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Andrea Belfanti
International Society of
Hospitality Consultants (ISHC)

Andrea Belfanti is the CEO for the International Society of Hospitality Consultants. Andrea has been with ISHC since 2009 and has over 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She is a regular speaker and presenter at industry events and currently serves on the planning committees for numerous hospitality industry investment conferences. Andrea co-founded the ISHC & Questex Diversity and Inclusion Council and is the Podium Committee Chair and serves on the Marketing Committee for Castell, an AHLA Foundation Project. Andrea sits on the Advisory Board for the University of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management, where she earned her bachelor’s degree.

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Seema Jain
Founder & CEO
Seva Global

Seema Jain has years of experience with helping companies become more culturally competent when engaging with people from different backgrounds.  Seema is the Founder and CEO of Seva Global, Growing Business Through Cultural Competency. She is a frequent speaker at hospitality industry conferences. In her past role as Senior Director, Multicultural Affairs at Marriott International, Seema had responsibility for developing tools and resources for Marriott associates and hotel properties to enhance cultural competencies to better serve the company’s broad diversity of guests and customers.  Prior to joining Marriott, she spent several years in healthcare where she focused on acquisition analysis of physical therapy centers and had her own independent consulting business. Seema is the co-founder of two non-profit organizations – Supporting Excellence in Education Foundation (SEED), which awards scholarships to high school students and the Young Jains of America (YJA), a national youth organization created to share Jain heritage and culture.

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Anu Saxena
President and Global Head
Hilton Supply Management

Anu Saxena leads the world’s largest hospitality supply chain organization, overseeing services for more than 11,000 properties and over 120 brands across 125 countries, influencing $11 billion in global spend with over 3,000 suppliers. She is the Leadership Advocate for Hilton’s Asian & Pacific Islander Resource Group, which promotes professional development, inclusion, and  diversity. Additionally, Anu leads an award-winning Supplier Diversity Program that has been recognized by Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s 2021 Top  Corporations Resiliency Edition, by National Business Inclusion Consortium’s 2021 Best-of-the-Best Corporations for Inclusion, and was ranked Top 15 by DiversityInc’s 2022 Supplier Diversity Specialty List. Anu serves on the board of the AHLA Foundation to advance efforts in developing the next generation of hospitality leaders. She also serves on the board of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, a  non-profit organization dedicated to bringing artistic and educational programs to  diverse audiences.

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Shruti (Gandhi) Buckley
Global Head
Hampton by Hilton

As Global Head of Hampton by Hilton, Shruti (Gandhi) Buckley is responsible for the overall brand strategy which includes driving brand growth and development, diversifying and increasing revenue, and sustaining customer loyalty. Shruti is a seasoned brand management and marketing leader with over 20 years of experience in the areas of global business management, brand strategy and analysis, and consumer marketing and public relations across a variety of industries, most recently, hospitality.  Prior to joining Hilton she was the global brand leader for Fairfield and Protea Hotels brands with Marriott International and also held marketing and brand management positions with leading organizations including Nestle, Unilever, Estee Lauder, Chanel Inc., and National Geographic. Shruti has been named one of the “Most Influential Women in Hospitality” by Hotel Management Magazine.

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Allison Reid
Chief Global Growth Officer
Aimbridge Hospitality

Allison Reid is Chief Global Growth Officer of Aimbridge Hospitality and is responsible for the company’s global growth pursuits and empowering Aimbridge’s business development teams to fuel the company’s global development pipeline.  Allison joined Aimbridge with 35 years of hospitality operations, finance, real estate, brand management, and development experience, including at Kimpton and Starwood.  Allison served in several executive leadership positions at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide including CFO at W Hotels, Vice President of Investment Relations, and SVP-Real Estate Investment Management. Earlier in her career, she held property-level and regional Finance/Controller positions with ITT Sheraton and Interstate Hotels.

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Monika Nerger
Global CIO
Mandarin Oriental

Monika Nerger is the Global Chief Information Officer for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, overseeing all aspects of the group’s global technology.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is the award-winning owner and operator of some of the most luxurious hotels, resorts and residences located in prime destinations around the world. It operates 33 hotels and seven residences in 23 countries and territories.

Prior to joining Mandarin Oriental, Monika worked internationally with Pan Pacific Hotels, KPMG Consulting, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

She holds an MBA and an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Miami.  Monika is currently a Board member and past President of HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation) and sits on the Advisory Board of CHTA (China Hospitality Technology Alliance) and well as the Jardines Digital Leadership. In 2017, Monika was inducted into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame.

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Lynette Montoya
President & CEO
Latino Hotel Association

Since 2015, Lynette Montoya has served as the CEO of the Latino Hotel Association, which focuses on providing Latino entrepreneurs hospitality industry resources, education and training, and networking opportunities to build wealth through hotel ownership and investment.  Lynette has been in the hotel industry for more than 25 years, working as a hotel broker for properties throughout the United States. She is the founder of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Santa Fe, New Mexico and served as its founding executive director. She is a board member of Architecture 2030, a non-profit think tank tackling climate change, serves on the Advisory Council of the California State University Hospitality and Tourism Management Education Alliance, and volunteers extensively in her community. Lynette is a member of the Board of Directors of Tourism Diversity Matters and has been a speaker at hospitality colleges and universities as well as for Castell@College.

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Ted Zhang
Founder and CEO

Mr. Ted Zhang is a graduate of University of Science and Technology, Beijing, and University of South Dakota, USA, with Material Science degree and Computer Science master degree. After graduation, Ted worked for Oak Technology as Information Systems Manager in USA. In 2002, Ted and his partner Mr. Feng Ou founded DerbySoft. They believe that the electronic distribution world is flat—that in the future, each travel-related company will have its own system(s) enabling it to work with other companies in the travel space. Those individual systems will exist equally and independently and will connect through the internet, eventually forming a next-generation travel distribution network, or Global Data Network (GDN). In fact, DerbySoft’s mission is to “Make the travel business easier”.

 In Q4, 2021, DerbySoft has 240,000 hotels’ data, 400+ integrated partners, 700+ global connection, and 12 Million room nights booking per month.

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LIU XinXin
H World Group Ltd.

Liu Xinxin has served as the President of H World Group Limited since Sep. 2021. She is responsible for information technology, sales and loyalty, e-commerce, online direct sales channels, corporate operations, and organizational transformation of the Group. Previously, she served as Co-President, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Information Officer.

She was the founder and CEO of H World Cloud Information Technology Co. Ltd., which is an IT company incubated by H World Group in November 2013. Prior to joining H World Group Limited, she worked as the IT head of Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell from July 1999 to September 2012.

Under the leadership of Liu, H World Group Limited has become a digital-driven hotel group. The H World Cloud is an independent company spun off from H World Group that provides IT solutions on a SaaS platform to create operations efficiency and sales & marketing effectiveness for other hotel chains as well as other service industries such as long-stay Apartment, catering, spa, gyms etc..

LIU received her Master of Business Administration from Fudan University in January 2008, and her bachelor’s degree in economic information management from Beijing Technology and Business University in June 1999. She also holds an IMBA Master’s degree from MIT-Solan.

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Glenn Haussman
Podcast Host

Glenn Haussman hosts No Vacancy News Today, a news and analysis program focused on hospitality headlines, and Friday Night Audit, a comedy focused show capturing the energy of the post conference bar scene and more. The podcast attracts the biggest names in hospitality and was chosen by USA Today as a “best podcast to listen to while traveling.” Glenn has been recognized as one of the top 100 Most Power People in Global Hospitality and the #1 Global Social Media Influencer in Hospitality, and his podcast was named the #1 podcast in hospitality. Additionally, he received the Leadership Excellence Award from SKAL USA for his tireless work bringing the hotel industry together during the Covid crisis and his podcast received the Davey Award.  Glenn also publishes novacancynews.com, an industry news site, and serves as a keynote speaker and moderator throughout the industry and as a speaker/media trainer.

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Ama Romaine
Managing Director,
Global General Counsel,
Real Estate Asset Management

Ama Romaine is Managing Director, Global General Counsel, Real Estate Asset Management at Blackstone. Before joining Blackstone, Ama served as the General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer at G6 Hospitality, the parent company for the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands and also was previously the General Counsel & Head of Risk Management at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.  She has held a number of positions with increasing responsibility in the hospitality industry, including as the Vice President & Senior Counsel for Brands at Hilton Worldwide.  Ama is the chair of the AHLA ForWard Advisory Committee and also serves as the Chair of the Initiative: Advancing the Blue & Black Partnership, a non-profit organization that she co-founded to foster healthy communities for all. She also serves on the Board of the International Franchise Association and previously served two terms as an advisory board member of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Leadership Academy.

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Suzanne Mellen
Senior Managing Director

Suzanne is the Senior Managing Director of HVS. Having appraised thousands of hotels, gaming assets, and related real estate throughout the world over the past 41 years, she specializes in complex hotel and casino feasibility issues and is nationally recognized for her industry expertise. Suzanne opened the second office of HVS in 1985 in San Francisco and led HVS’ expansion to Las Vegas (2009) and Los Angeles (2013). She developed innovative appraisal methodologies such as a mortgage-equity income capitalization formula for variable income properties, and a refinancing model for hotel investments. She has authored numerous articles on hotel valuation and has spoken at numerous industry events, including annual appearances at JMBM’s Meet the Money and ALIS. Suzanne holds the following designations: MAI (Appraisal Institute), CRE (Counselor of Real Estate), FRICS (Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), and ISHC (International Society of Hospitality Consultants).

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Lisa Checchio
EVP & Chief Marketing Officer
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Lisa Borromeo Checchio is EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the world’s largest hotel franchisor, and champions Wyndham’s portfolio of iconic brands and its award-winning loyalty program, Wyndham Rewards. Lisa has been recognized as Global Business Travel Association’s “Top 50 Women in Travel,” Ad Age’s “40 Under 40,” Hotel Management’s Most Influential Women in Hospitality, 15 Women Making their Mark in Hospitality by Lodging Magazine, and HSMAI’s Top 25 Extraordinary Minds. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the AHLA Foundation and is a Board Member of AHLA and HSMAI. As the daughter of an immigrant, Lisa strives to inspire and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion through her career and volunteerism.