The capacity to learn is a gift;
the ability to learn is a skill;
the willingness to learn is a choice.
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
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.
Rachel Humphrey is a well-known Board Member, Speaker, Hospitality Industry Executive, and Counsel. 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 “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.
Lan Elliott is an experienced hotel real estate & transactions executive, representing hotel owners and hotel brand companies for over 30 years.
In 2020, Lan rejoined Acacia Hospitality LLC, a hotel investment company she co-founded, which owns interests in five city-center convention hotels. Lan's hotel ownership experience includes 10 years at Host Hotels & Resorts, where she closed on over $7 billion of transactions. Lan's roles with brand companies include IHG, where she established and led the Transactions & Asset Management team, and W Hotels in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, where Lan led W Hotel's development efforts for the region, expanding W Hotels’ regional presence, including adding the W Hotels in London and Paris. Lan's early experience included working with KPMG's Hospitality Real Estate Consulting practice, and she has a joint degree from Cornell University; a B.S. from the School of Hotel Administration and an M.B.A. from the Johnson Graduate School of Managment. Lan’s currently serves as Co-Chair and Advisory Board Member of Castell@College, a part of the Castell Project, a nonprofit focused on advancing women in hospitality leadership. She was previously the President of the Executive Board for the Literacy Council of Montgomery County, a Maryland nonprofit. In 2018, she was invited to join Urban Land Institute’s Hotel Development Council.
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.
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.
Board Member of Red Roof Inns,
Senior Director-Asset Management for Westmont Hospitality Group
Dorraine Lallani oversees Westmont’s Select Service Division in the US, focusing on asset management and the disposition of hotel assets valued at $20 million and below. She currently asset manages the company’s 50+ affiliate-owned Red Roof locations. Dorraine has worked on disposition transactions of virtually every type and size in her career, as well as acquisitions, due diligence, franchise relations, administration, and human resources in the U.S. and Canada. In between the last 13 years with Westmont and following an earlier 22 years there, Dorraine was SVP for Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, focusing on hotel advisory services and investment sales in their Select Service division. She is a past member of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association and holds a Real Estate Broker License in Texas. She has served on the Women’s Committee for AAHOA and a participant in AAHOA’s Mentorship Program. She has also served on the planning committee for Red Roof’s Forum for Women Entrepreneurs.
Chief Human Resources Officer
Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Malaika Myers was appointed Chief Human Resources Officer at Hyatt Hotels Corporation in 2017. In this role, Malaika is responsible for setting and implementing Hyatt’s global HR enterprise strategy worldwide. She has more than 25 years experience in HR, having previously held roles as SVP, Human Resources for Jarden Corporation, CHRO for Arysta LifeScience, and in various senior management roles at Diageo PLC, an international beverage and spirits business. Prior to joining Diageo, Malaika spent 10 years with PepsiCo, which she joined after serving in various HR roles with FMC Corporation. Malaika has been a member of the boards of directors for several non-profit companies and city commissions and is a highly sought after speaker. She is also a prior recipient of the Trailblazer Award, issued by the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR).
Kevin J. Jacobs
Chief Financial Officer &
President, Global Development
Hilton Hotels Corporation
Kevin leads thecompany’s finance, real estate, development and architecture and construction functions globally. He joined the company in 2008 as Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy; was elected Treasurer in 2009; was appointed Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff in 2012; assumed the role of Chief Financial
Officer in 2013; and added the role of President, Global Development in 2020.
Prior to Hilton, Mr. Jacobs was Senior Vice President, Mergers & Acquisitions and Treasurer of FairmontRaffles Hotels International. Prior to Fairmont Raffles, Mr. Jacobs spent seven years with Host Hotels & Resorts, ultimately serving as Vice President, Corporate Strategy & Investor Relations. Prior to Host, Mr. Jacobs had various roles in the Hospitality Consulting Practice of PwC and the Hospitality Valuation Group
of Cushman & Wakefield.
Mr. Jacobs is a member of the Board of Directors of Omega Healthcare Investors, Inc., a triple-net, equity REIT (NYSE: OHI) that supports the goals of skilled nursing facility and assisted living facility operators with financing and capital. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Goodwill of Greater Washington, is a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the Federal City Council, is a Trustee on the Cornell
Board of Trustees, is a member of the Cornell University Council and of the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Kevin is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration
Global Speaker | Entrepreneur | Executive Coach | Strategist
Renie Cavallari is founder, CEO, and Chief Instigator of Aspire and an award-winning international marketing and leadership expert. Her inimitable grasp of business and its challenges, along with her proven, innovative solutions set Renie apart as a captivating speaker, author, leader, coach, and strategist who has driven measurable results for businesses globally for over 25 years. She presents keynote speeches around the world and is a member of the prestigious National Speakers Association.
Cavallari harnessed her understanding of business to found Aspire in 1995. Aspire designs the exact solutions that companies need to stand out and awaken the potential of their people. Most companies are done at the end of a program, while Aspire is just getting started. They stick around to give organizations the tools they need to continuously drive measurable results. Over the last 26 years, more than 1 million people have learned to think differently, challenge the status quo, and expect results through Aspire's programs. Aspire makes it all happen by establishing competencies, filling gaps, and inspiring people to rise to their potential.
IHG Hotels & Resorts
Elie Maalouf is Chief Executive Officer of the Americas region for IHG Hotels & Resorts, based in Atlanta, Georgia, and serves as an Executive Director on IHG's Board. He also has responsibility for global customer development, providing oversight of the Global Sales organization, as well as our owner management and services strategy.
Elie leads the management, growth and profitability of the company’s largest operating region and is responsible for overseeing over 4,300 hotels and resorts, spanning the US, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Elie’s experience includes nearly 15 years at HMSHost Corporation, where he held roles as President and CEO and was a member of the board of directors. Before HMSHost, Elie spent eight years with Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. Prior to joining IHG in 2015, Elie was Senior Advisor with McKinsey & Company.
Elie is active in organizations that support and promote the travel and hospitality industries as a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association Executive Committee of the Board, and a member and chairman of the U.S. Travel Association CEO Roundtable. In addition, Elie serves on the CEO Council of the Global Business Alliance and is a board member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress.
Elie holds an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and a Bachelor's degree in engineering from Virginia Tech.
Dr. Lalia Rach
Corporate executive, educator, speaker entrepreneur, executive coach and Amazon Best Seller author
Dr. Lalia Rach is the executive managing director of Strategic Consulting Services, a division of Associated Luxury Hotels International. Lalia is responsible for developing and delivering consulting services to member hotels and clients. Lalia is a frequent public speaker and author of the book, “Managing the Book on You: Rewriting your Leadership Story!” Previously, as the founder and partner of Rach Enterprises, she served as an advisor to senior level executives, and she has also served as dean at several top hospitality and tourism programs.
Lalia has many recognized with many honors including the Smart Women in Meetings: Visionary from Smart Meetings Magazine; Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing from HSMAI; one of the Most Influential People in the Travel Industry from Travel Weekly; “Meet the 25 Most Influential Women in Travel” by Forbes Life Executive Woman; Professional of the Year Award from Big Apple Chapter Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association; and Special Hospitality Award from NYC & Co.
Award-winning hotel owner, investor, advocate
With over 20 years in business, Rupesh is best known for inspiring and helping others grow by sharing insights on leadership, guest service, and marketing. He has a following of over 50,000 hospitality professionals on LinkedIn.
Rupesh’s passion for sharing knowledge is evident in many forms, including his live shows, events and public speaking. His work has been featured in magazines, podcasts and other industry media outlets. He was recognized by IACC Orlando as their 2022 Male Business Professional of the Year. He was also recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful People in Global Hospitality by International Hospitality Institute. His company is one of the Top 100 Hotel Ownership and Management Companies.
Founder and CEO
Noble Investment Group
As founder and chief executive officer, Mr. Shah provides overall strategic guidance for the Noble organization and heads its investment committee.
He has been profiled in Newsweek magazine as one of the most influential South Asians in the United States, named as one of Atlanta's most prominent leaders by Atlanta Magazine and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and as one of the 21st century's most influential hospitality industry leaders by both Lodging and Lodging Hospitality magazines. He is the 2019 recipient of the prestigious IREFAC Arne Sorenson Award for outstanding leadership in the hospitality industry.
Mr. Shah presently serves as an executive committee member of the board of directors for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, is co-chairman of its Industry Real Estate and Finance Advisory Council (IREFAC) and is a member of the owner boards for Marriott International and Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
Chief Development Officer
Americas, IHG Hotels & Resorts
Julienne Smith is the Chief Development Officer for IHG Hotels & Resorts where she oversees the company’s growth in the Americas region. Prior to joining IHG, she was with Hyatt, serving as the SVP of Development & Owner Relations and previously as the VP of Real Estate and Development. Julienne also held several positions within Marriott International’s Lodging Development Group. Within IHG, she also serves on the Global and Americas Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Councils.
Julienne is an active member and leader in hospitality industry organizations including AHLA, the AHLA Foundation, and ULI and serves on several industry conference planning committees. She also serves on the Board of Kaleidoscope Inc., a non-profit child welfare agency that serves Chicago area children and families impacted by abuse and neglect, and volunteers for many charitable organizations.
Miranda Kitterlin-Lynch, PhD
Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Florida International University
Dr. Miranda Kitterlin-Lynch received her doctoral degree in Hospitality Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is the Director of Membership Services and Development for the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education (ICHRIE), as well as the Associate Editor for the International Hospitality Review, and a Bloomin’ Brands DEI Alliance Research Fellow. In 2017, Dr. Kitterlin-Lynch received the FIU Faculty Senate Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2021 she received the FIU Faculty Senate Award for Excellence in Advising and Mentoring. Dr. Kitterlin-Lynch is a Coca Cola Endowed Professor, the recipient of international and domestic Best Paper awards, and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, conference proceedings, and trade/industry publications. She has also edited a textbook in her area of specialty, and given a number of media interviews.
Michelle Russen, PhD
Assistant Professor of
Hospitality Management at
Cal State, San Bernardino
Dr. Russen’s recently-published doctoral thesis focuses on Hospitality Leadership Inclusion, and emphasizes the need for hospitality companies to first focus on inclusion in order to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) work environment. She has also co-authored articles on DEI in HNN and Hertelier, based on her research.
Dr. Russen is the recipient of the 2021 International CHRIE Best Paper Award; author of more than 11 peer-reviewed articles and conference proceedings relating to food & beverage and organizational behavior in hospitality; and published author in such journals as the International Journal of Hospitality Management, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, and Journal of Foodservice and Business Research.
Prior to her transition to academia, Dr. Russen spent two years in event management and ten years in the restaurant industry. She brings the challenges she saw firsthand into her research on DEI as well as the courses she teaches in Human Resource Management for Hospitality, Organizational Behavior for Hospitality Management, Food & Beverage Operations, and Hospitality Marketing.
Founder & CEO of BLLA
With many years in hospitality and travel, Fran has thrived in this industry for more than 35 years. You might describe her as a seasoned professional whose passion for people and industry knowledge shows through the organizations that she's built. In 2009, Fran created the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging (now Leaders) Association (BLLA) to give a voice to independent, upscale hotel properties, which at the time had no representation in the industry. She runs BLLA and its 4 additional divisions - Stay Boutique™, Boutique Money Group, TIEWN (Travel Industry Executive Women's Network founded in 2008) and BLLA Events - alongside her youngest daughter, Ariela Kiradjian. Today, BLLA serves thousands of worldwide members including hotels, small brands, and the vendor suppliers that sustain them. Fran sits on several boards and most notably the St. Justine Hotels and Residences.
Tori Emerson Barnes
EVP, Public Affairs and Policy
U.S. Travel Association
Tori Emerson Barnes is Executive Vice President, Public Affairs and Policy, at the U.S. Travel Association, the leading voice for all segments of the U.S. travel and tourism industry. Tori directs the association's government and political affairs, external and industry communications, and marketing and research teams. She is highly regarded on Capitol Hill and across the industry for managing a portfolio of domestic and international travel issues.
Tori is a manager of USTA’s CEO Roundtable, a leader on multiple industry-wide coalitions, the creator of U.S. Travel’s Travel Works Roadshow, and a frequent presence in the news media and as a conference speaker. She was recognized by The Hill as one of Washington’s top lobbyists for four consecutive years, a Top Lobbyist by the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics, one of the Top 50 Women in Travel by the Global Business Travel Association’s WINiT, and as a Leading Lobbyist by Association Trends 2020.
Chief Executive Officer
Rob Palleschi is the Chief Executive Officer of G6 Hospitality, the parent company of the iconic Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands in the U.S. and Canada. G6 Hospitality owns, manages or franchises nearly 1,400 economy lodging hotels in the United States and Canada. As CEO, Rob restructured the business to separate real estate operations from brand/franchise support and is committed to reinvigorating a culture of quality and guest service across the enterprise. Rob joined G6 in 2017 as the company’s Chief Development Officer and was named CEO in 2018.
A seasoned leader with more than three decades of experience in the hospitality and food & beverage industries, Rob has a proven track record of successfully developing and executing global strategies that focus on revenue growth, product quality and guest experience. Prior to joining G6 Hospitality, Rob served as the Chief Executive Officer of TGI Fridays and spent twelve years at Hilton Worldwide as global head of full-service brands where he was responsible for global growth and brand performance for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, and Curio by Hilton brands.
Rob received an honorary Doctor of Business Administration in International Hotel & Tourism Management and a B.S. in Hospitality Administration & Management from Johnson & Wales University. He is actively involved in key industry organizations, including AAHOA and AHLA.
CEO North and Central America
A skilled professional with an extensive hospitality background spanning more than 30 years, Heather began her career at Fairmont Banff Springs in the Canadian Rockies. After advancing through progressive positions at the property level, Heather joined the corporate leadership team, ultimately honing her expertise in a series of senior executive roles crossing Sales, Revenue Management and Operations.
In 2019, Heather was appointed Chief Executive Officer, North & Central America. Responsible for the strategic direction of the Group for this region, Heather’s focus is on building long-term growth and profitability in one of the largest and most influential consumer markets in the world.
Heather is a champion for talent development and mentorship, and a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. She is proud to serve as Executive Sponsor for RiiSE North & Central America, Accor’s international network promoting diversity and gender equality. She was honored to receive the inaugural Castell Award (2019), as well as the Katie Taylor Economic Empowerment Award (2021), for her extensive work to increase gender diversity and support women in leadership, both within the organization and across the industry.
Heather is a board member for Groups360 and sits on the AHLA Executive Committee and US Travel Association CEO Roundtable. She is past chair of Tourism Toronto and a past member of the Ontario Advisory Board for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Heather holds an MBA from Queen’s University and resides in Toronto, Canada.
President & CEO
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Geoffrey A. Ballotti has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and a member of its Board of Directors since June 2018. Prior to that, he was CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group for four years, which spun off from the former Wyndham Worldwide in 2018 to become a pure-play, publicly-traded hotel company. From March 2008 to March 2014, Geoff served as Chief Executive Officer of Wyndham Destination Network. From October 2003 to March 2008, Geoff was President of the North America Division of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. From 1989 to 2003, Geoff held leadership positions of increasing responsibility at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, including President of Starwood North America, Executive Vice President, Operations, Senior Vice President, Southern Europe and Managing Director, Ciga Spa, Italy. Prior to joining Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Geoff was a Banking Officer in the Commercial Real Estate Group at the Bank of New England.
Geoff currently serves on the Executive Committee of the American Hotel & Lodging
Association Board. He previously served as Chairman of the U.S. Travel Association and on the Executive Committee of the American Resort & Development Association. He also served on the board of directors for Christel House International, a not-for-profit organization that supports impoverished children throughout the world.
President & CEO
Wealth Protection Strategies
2019-2020 AAHOA Chair
For over 22 years, as President & CEO of Wealth Protection Strategies, Jagruti has been providing direction to individuals and businesses on asset protection and wealth transfer strategies, business succession planning, life insurance protection, asset management, and full advisory services. Jagruti has proudly been recognized as a top producer in the country and has been the recipient of numerous industry and company awards.
Jagruti is also a hotel owner and is extremely active in the hospitality industry. She is the recipient of many awards and recognitions and is a highly sought after speaker at industry events. Jagruti currently serves on the AHLA Board of Directors and is the 2019-2020 Chairwoman of AAHOA, the world’s largest hotel owners association, and was the first Chairwoman in the association’s 30-year history. She is deeply committed to her advocacy work which includes testifying in Washington, DC on several important topics for hotel owners, as well as evidencing a strong commitment to elevating women in the industry and highlighting female empowerment.
Senior Leader in Travel + Tech, Inclusion & Diversity Change Agent
Melissa is a forward-thinking strategist with a multifaceted perspective and deep insights into global marketing, public relations and communications, industry engagement, diversity and inclusion, technology, and relationship building across hospitality and other sectors. Melissa is a trusted advisor and thought leader who leverages 20 years of experience at Fortune 500 Expedia Group to establish and implement strategies, deploy operational and branding solutions, form business relationships, and drive innovative business solutions.
Melissa most recently served as Chief Marketing Officer & Senior Vice President of Marketing and Industry Engagement at Expedia Group and was Expedia Group’s first Chief Inclusion Officer championing diversity and creating a sense of belonging for Expedia Group’s employees, customers, partners and communicates. Melissa is an Advisory Board Member for Women In Travel Thrive and has received several honors such as Top 40 Women in Travel by WINiT by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and 30 Influential Women in Hospitality by Hotel Management.
Founder and Principal
Refined Training & Consulting
Sylvia Douglin is the founder and principal of her firm, Refined Training & Consulting, offering training in Professionalism and Business Communication. Sylvia has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She has been an on-property Director of Human Resources at a full-service hotel in Arlington, Virginia, and, for the last 17 years, Director of Training initiatives in the C-Suites of three of the largest third-party hotel management companies.
An AHLA Foundation Project
In 2016, Peggy Berg founded Castell Project, a non-profit advancing women in leadership in the hospitality industry, and served as Chair until April 2022 when the organization merged with the AHLA Foundation. Under her guidance, Castell developed leadership programs for women, benchmarked the status of women in the hospitality industry, created Castell@College to encourage women in university hospitality programs, and promoted women on the podium.
Peggy has owned and operated hotels and was also a well-known consultant. She was the first female employee elected by the PKF partnership and she built The Highland Group, Hotel Investment Advisors, Inc.
Peggy is active in the hospitality industry, including with AHLA and as chair emeritus of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, among others. Peggy has received the 2022 ISHC Pioneer Award for her outstanding contribution, achievement and improvement in the hospitality industry and was the recipient of the 2022 HUNTER Award for excellence and inspiration, a recognition that celebrates hoteliers who exemplify exceptional leadership, citizenship, and innovation.
Mary Beth Cutshall
Founder & Managing Partner
Passionate about creating more real estate ownership and leadership diversity, Mary Beth founded Amara Capital in 2018, as a real estate DE&I investment platform for high-net worth women and minority investors to gain access into hospitality, multi-family real estate. Prior, Mary Beth served as EVP & Chief Development Officer at Hospitality Ventures Management Group (HVMG), a nationally recognized owner and operator of hotels and resorts.
Honored in 2021 by ULI/WLI as a “2021 The Leaders” as a seasoned real estate industry giant, in 2017 as one of the 30 Influential Women in Hospitality by Hotel Management Magazine, Atlanta Magazine as one of “Atlanta’s 500 Most Powerful Leaders” (2020 & 2019), and one of the top hospitality leaders to follow on social media by Crowdriff. Mary Beth is a frequent speaker at hotel investment conferences who’s insight has been sought out by numerous news and media publications and is with the Atlanta Hospitality Alliance, Castell Project, AHLA’s FORWARD Council, ULI Recreational Council, ULI Atlanta’s Capital Market Council, and Marriott International’s Women Supporting Women Council.
President and Founder MCCSN
Clara Carter is the President and Founder of the Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network (MCCSN), Inc., a woman-owned DBE certified business that provides global meeting, event management, consulting, and third party hotel sourcing services to associations, corporations, and leisure travel clients. MCCSN produces the annual WITH National Conference and Awards Luncheon. Clara is also the visionary founder of Women in Tourism and Hospitality International (WITH, Int’l), a non-profit corporation that recognizes the contributions of women professionals who significantly impact the changing landscape of Tourism and Hospitality.
Clara is the recipient of many accolades including 2021 selection to the San Diego Black Pioneers Exhibition at San Diego History Museum; 2021 Clara Carter day named in her honor, by the San Diego Mayor and City Council; 2020 Meetings Trendsetter by Meetings Today Magazine; 2019 Gender Equity Champion by California NOW; 2018 One of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry by Successful Meetings Magazine; and 2017 Changemaker by Meetings Net magazine. Clara is an instructor and Advisory Board Member for several organizations.
Founder of TLTsolutions
2021 LODGING Person of The Year
Tracy L. Prigmore is an award-winning executive and the Founder of TLTsolutions, a multi-million dollar real estate investment and development firm in residential, multifamily and hotel projects in four states. Prigmore was chosen as Person of the Year by LODGING in 2021, recognized by International Hospitality Institute (IHI) as one of the most influential leaders in U.S. hospitality, and an Influential woman in hospitality by Hotel Management. Tracy is the creator of She Has a Deal, a platform that creates new pathways to commercial real estate ownership and development for women by providing education, networking and investing opportunities. She Has a Deal’s renowned Hotel Investment Pitch Competition, SHaDPitch is creating a pipeline of women owners and developers by preparing them to become sponsors and lead hotel investment projects. Prior to entering real estate development, Tracy spent 25 years as a healthcare executive and held senior leadership roles in strategic planning, business development and operations for three of the nation’s largest healthcare systems.
Korn Ferry, Chicago
Radhika Papandreou is Managing Partner in Korn Ferry’s Chicago office where she leads the Chicago office and the North American Travel, Hospitality and Leisure practice.
She joined Korn Ferry from a leading executive search firm, where she was managing director and global head of its Hospitality and Leisure practice. Ms. Papandreou specializes in C-Suite and Board placements and has managed large scale client projects including bankruptcies and turnarounds.
Ms. Papandreou speaks frequently at industry conferences and contributes to industry publications primarily around Diversity Equity and Inclusion.
Ms. Papandreou earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a dual major in International Affairs & Economics from the Johns Hopkins University, and later a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Ms. Papandreou is a member of the Arogya World Board of Directors, a U.S. based non-profit organization striving to reduce the global impact of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Mark S. Hoplamazian
President and CEO
Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Mark S. Hoplamazian was appointed to Hyatt Hotels Corporation’s board of directors in November 2006 and subsequently named president and chief executive officer in December 2006. Prior to his present position, Hoplamazian served as president of The Pritzker Organization (TPO), the principal financial and investment adviser for Pritzker family business interests. During his 17-year tenure with TPO, he served as adviser to various Pritzker family-owned companies, including Hyatt Hotels Corporation and its predecessors. He previously worked in international mergers and acquisitions at The First Boston Corporation in New York. Hoplamazian served as Chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Association from January 2021 to December 2021, and serves on the Board of Directors and as a member of the Talent & Compensation and Finance committees of the Board of Directors of VF Corporation. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Brand USA and Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of World Business Chicago, and the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Institute and of the Latin School of Chicago. Hoplamazian is a member of the World Travel & Tourism Council, the Commercial Club of Chicago, and the Discovery Class of the Henry Crown Fellowship.
Sloan F. Dean III
President & CEO
Sloan Dean is an award-winning hospitality professional and CEO & President of Remington Hotels. Dean joined Remington Hotels in January 2018 as Chief Operating Officer before being promoted to his current role in January 2020. A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dean drives financial results and fosters an accountable and driven culture at the third-party management company, which currently manages 82 hotels in 24 states with annual revenues over $1 billion. Prior to joining Remington Hotels, Dean worked with established brands including Ashford Inc., Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Alliance Hospitality Management, Noble Investment Group, InterContinental Hotels Group and Oliver Wyman. He is active in the hospitality community and is a member of the Young Presidents Organization, AH&LA Board of Directors, Hilton’s Distribution Owner Advisory Council and ASFONA Board of Directors, among others. Outside of the office, Dean is a fitness enthusiast and enjoys spending quality time with his kids.
President & CEO
Choice Hotels International
Patrick Pacious is President and Chief Executive Officer of Choice Hotels International, Inc., one of the largest and most successful lodging franchisors in the world, with more than 7,100 hotels, representing nearly 600,000 rooms, in 45 countries and territories. Before becoming CEO in 2017, Pat was the company’s president and chief operating officer. He served as a U.S. Navy officer after earning his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and went on to earn a master’s in business administration from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
Pat was twice named one of the "Top 50 Best CEOs of Large Companies" by Comparably, as determined by employee ratings, ranking No. 7 overall. He also received the inaugural Veterans in Business Award from the Washington Business Journal for his work to help veterans in the workplace and beyond. Pat is also currently a member of the board of directors of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.
President, AH&LA Foundation
Rosanna Maietta is Executive Vice President of Communications & Public Relations at the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and President & CEO of the AHLA Foundation. In this role, she is responsible for driving the strategic planning for all of the association’s internal and external communications and increasing visibility for the dynamic hotel industry in and outside Washington, D.C. For the Foundation, Rosanna oversees the philanthropic mission, which aims to support the hotel industry’s current workforce as well as aspiring hospitality professionals through the disbursements of scholarships and workforce development programs. Since its inception the foundation has disbursed some $25 million dollars in support of the industry.
Amanda Hite has served as STR’s president since 2011 and oversees the company’s business activities and overall direction. Under her leadership, STR has experienced substantial growth in its global presence, client base, data coverage, and revenue, as well as experiencing several significant milestones, including the 2016 unification of STR’s global brands and the implementation of a number of key industry deliverables. Additionally, Amanda led STR through the company’s acquisition by CoStar Group in 2019.
Amanda’s accomplishments have been recognized with inclusion in Hotel Management’s Influential Women in Hospitality, as well as 40 Under 40 Emerging Leaders. Amanda is a member of the Board of Directors of AHLA and the U.S. Travel Association. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and on the Industry Advisory Board of the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program at Auburn University.
President & CEO
American Hotel & Lodging Association
Chip Rogers has been President and CEO of AHLA since the start of 2019, leading America’s only national association dedicated to serving the interests of the entire hotel and lodging industry.
Chip has led the AHLA team and the lodging industry to achieve tangible results for AHLA members. He has received numerous awards and has been recognized as one of the 25 most influential by Business Travel News, one of the most influential people in Washington D.C. by Washingtonian magazine, Top 50 Most Influential Leaders in Hospitality, USA, and Global by Hospitality Index, a Freedom Award recipient from ECPAT-USA, and twice as a top lobbyist by the Hill newspaper.
Prior to joining the hospitality industry, Chip served in the Georgia General Assembly. He was elected to office six times and was unanimously elected twice to serve as Senate majority leader. Chip earned his undergraduate degree from Georgia Tech and his MBA from Georgia State.
Co-Founder, Managing Director
AETHOS Consulting Group
Juliette Boone is a Co-founder and Managing Director of AETHOS Consulting Group, a global hospitality advisory firm serving people-driven businesses. Juliette has written numerous articles on the subject of women in leadership and corporate governance including “Rethinking a Glass Ceiling in the Hospitality Industry” published in the Cornell Quarterly. She has been invited to speak at the HR in Hospitality Conference, the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research Summit, the HSMAI Revenue Optimization Conference, and other events. Juliette serves as Vice Chair of the Engagement Committee on the President’s Council of Cornell Women, is a member at-large of the Cornell University Council, volunteers with the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, is former president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Cornell Hotel Society, and is a member of the City of Boulder’s Housing Advisory Board, appointed by the Boulder City Council. Her experience is complemented with a Master’s degree in Hospitality Management and Bachelor of Science from Cornell University.
Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality
New York University
Nicolas Graf, PhD, is the associate dean and Jonathan M. Tisch Chaired Professor of the NYU Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. He is the founder of the Hospitality Innovation HUB and incubator program at NYU. Prior to this, he served as chief academic officer of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, managing director at Alain Ducasse, and professor and director of the IMHI Center at ESSEC Business School in Paris. He earned his PhD from Virginia Tech and is a graduate of the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne.
He has published in numerous academic journals in the fields of finance and strategy, including the International Journal of Hospitality Management, The Real Estate Finance Journal, and the Journal of Retail & Leisure Property.
Over the past 20 years, he has delivered executive education courses for various companies in Asia, MEA, North and South America, and Europe, and he has conducted several consulting projects in the fields of asset management, strategic planning, and business development.
Executive Director, Marriott - Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership
Howard University School of Business
Known as the Hospitality Sharp Shooter, Ashli Johnson brings nearly 20 years of hospitality industry experience to her new role as the inaugural Executive Director of the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership at Howard University. A fierce champion for equity and inclusion, she founded Hospitality Leaders Today – HLT100 as a leadership development program for Black collegiate students in 2016, and Hospitality Hued as an accelerator for Black hospitality professionals in 2019. Ashli has served on several industry boards and committees for organizations such as AHLA, NABHOOD, and LHA. She is a frequently sought after speaker and has consulted on projects with leading brands and entrepreneurs.
In academia, Ashli has taught and served in leadership roles for several recognized hospitality programs and also served as the Assistant Dean of the University of Houston’s Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management, prior to leading educational programming for the world’s largest association of hotel owners, AAHOA.
Founder & CEO
Mitch Patel founded Vision Hospitality Group in 1997 with the goal of creating a company dedicated to excellence with a focus on community and family. Mitch and his team have developed over 60 hotels and currently hold a growing portfolio of 41 properties with a market cap approaching nearly $1 Billion, including the company’s award-winning, boutique hotel, The Edwin.
Under Mitch’s leadership, Vision has received many awards, as well as recognition for its efforts in development, community service, and design. Mitch serves on the Marriott Franchise Advisory Council, the Hilton Owner’s Advisory Council, and the Executive Committee of AHLA. Mitch maintains his presence on boards of local organizations that support education and economic development in Vision’s hometown of Chattanooga, TN, and he is an advocate for ending human trafficking in the hospitality industry. His efforts have earned him national recognition, which includes his most recent honor of receiving the NSDAR Americanism Award.
Chief Development Officer
Tina Burnett is the Chief Development Officer at G6 Hospitality, the parent company of the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands. In her role, Burnett provides leadership and management oversight to the development, property openings, lead generation, and franchise support teams, leading to the continued growth of the brands across the U.S. and Canada.
With more than 20 years’ experience working in the hospitality sector, Burnett has held multiple leadership roles in franchise development and operations since joining in 1998. Most recently, she served as Divisional Vice President of Franchise Operations and was responsible for franchise operations and revenue-generation strategy and execution for one of the largest economy lodging portfolios in the hospitality industry.
With more than 20 years of experience working in the hospitality sector, Burnett has held multiple leadership roles in franchise development and operations since joining in 1998. Burnett holds a degree in business administration. She is an active participant in the Asian American Hotel Owners Association Women's Organization and was appointed to the board of the Texas Hotel & Loading Association. Burnett was also recently named as one of the “Most Influential Women in Hospitality” by Hotel Management.
JLL Hotels & Hospitality
Gilda Perez-Alvarado is the Global Chief Executive Officer of JLL Hotels & Hospitality, where she is responsible for investment sales, debt and equity placement, strategic advisory and asset management across all global regions. Additionally, Gilda leads the group’s Global Hotel Desk, a specialized team of cross-border investment sales professionals based in the Middle East, Asia Pacific, the Americas and Europe.
Gilda also serves on the Board of Trustees of Cornell University, is on the Board of Directors of Sonder, and is an active member of IREFAC, IHIC and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Board. Gilda is also a two-time recipient of the Jack A. Shaffer Financial Advisor of the year at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit. She remains the only woman to date to receive this award.
Marriott International, Inc.
Stephanie Linnartz is the president of Marriott International, Inc., the world’s largest hospitality company, with more than 8,000 properties across 139 countries and territories and 30 brands. She is responsible for developing and executing all aspects of Marriott’s global consumer strategy and overseeing its global real estate development, design, and operations services functions.
Stephanie is often recognized for her leadership, including Forbes CEO Next’s list of up-and coming leaders set to revolutionize American business, Hotel Management’s 30 Influential Women in Hospitality, Brand Innovators’ Top 100 Women in Brand Marketing, and was profiled as one of CNN’s 2019 Risk Takers. Stephanie joined Fast Company’s Impact Council and also the Fortune CEO Initiative, a forum of global corporate leaders committed to addressing major social problems as part of their core business strategies. She is a sought-after speaker at global industry events. Stephanie sits on Marriott’s Board of Directors Social Impact and Inclusion Committee and the company’s ESG Executive Council and also serves on several corporate, educational, and non-profit boards.
Apple Hospitality REIT Board Member, COO (Retired); Senior Advisor Derive Ventures
Krissy Gathright has had a lengthy career as a C-Suite Executive and Board Member with over two decades of experience in the hospitality and real estate industry. She serves on the boards of Apple Hospitality REIT (NYSE:APLE) and Spirit Realty Capital (NYSE:SRC) and is a senior advisor for Derive Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm. Previously, Krissy served as COO of Apple Hospitality REIT, and as one of its first employees, she was instrumental in building a team with a strong corporate culture, driving industry-leading results, and helping execute several strategic transactions.
Krissy is a highly sought-after advisory council member and conference speaker, and her writings have been published in many industry publications. Over the years, Krissy has been named one of the most influential women in lodging by Hotel Management and Lodging magazines and one of Real Estate Forum’s Women of Influence. Krissy has a passion for community service and serves on several non-profit boards.
Cindy Estis Green
CEO and Co-founder, Kalibri Labs, LLC
Cindy Estis Green’s career began in corporate marketing and senior operations with Hilton International. After founding the data mining company, Driving Revenue, and selling it to Pegasus Solutions, Ms. Estis Green spent twelve years as managing partner of The Estis Group working with hotel owners on targeting value growth in their assets.
Estis Green has been honored as one of the hotel industry’s 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing, was inducted into the prestigious Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame, named as one of Cornell University’s 90 Influential Hotelies and received the HSMAI Vanguard Award for leadership in moving the field of revenue optimization toward a focus on profit contribution.
A prolific published author, Estis Green is highly sought after as a speaker on topics related to digital disruption and the impact on the economics of hotels.
Ms. Estis Green co-founded Kalibri Labs, a next generation commercial strategy platform to evaluate, predict and benchmark hotel revenue performance. Using data science, Kalibri Labs helps hoteliers optimize profit contribution and supports the real estate community with tools that refine underwriting for investment and development.
Estis Green holds a BS degree from Cornell University and an MBA from The American University.
AMY JAKUBOWSKI, IIDA, ISHC, LEED AP
PRINCIPAL AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, PYR
Amy is an award winning design executive with 30 years of experience as a leader,
designer, director, and business partner. Responsible for annual design revenues in excess of $10MM, and construction budgets ranging from $25MM to $500MM. Adaptable skills with an advanced understanding of process and prioritization. Diverse experience including mixed-use developments, hotel repositioning and renovation, new builds, restaurants, residential, retail, and corporate offices, including the development of brand
prototypes and guidelines. Worked successfully with major hotel brands including Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, St. Regis, Fairmont, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Peninsula, Langham, Kimpton, and IHG. A contributing author to industry publications and a recurring speaker at industry conferences. Nominated as Hotel Management’s
Top 30 Most Influential Women in Hospitality.
Since 2021, Amy Jakubowski has joined the global design firm PYR (Pierre-Yves Rochon) as Principal and Managing Director. Based in the firm’s Chicago studio, she oversees PYR’s client engagement and business strategy worldwide, working in concert with the firm’s flagship studio in Paris as well as PYR’s parent company, Perkins&Will.
Chief Executive Officer, IHG®
Keith has been Chief Executive Officer of IHG® since July 2017. He is responsible for implementing IHG’s strategy for high-quality growth and generating industry leading value creation for hotel owners, operators and shareholders. This strategy focuses on strengthening a diverse portfolio of differentiated brands, building scale in key markets, creating lifetime guest relationships, and delivering highly profitable revenues to hotels.
Keith has spent more than 25 years working in the hospitality industry across a wide range of roles, having started his career in hotel operations. He has been a member of IHG’s Executive Committee since April 2011 and served as Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) for four years before being appointed CEO. Prior to his role as CCO, Keith spent four years as CEO of IHG’s Greater China business, where under his leadership, IHG drove outstanding results and helped set the foundations for growth in a key market.
Keith joined IHG in 2000 and subsequently held a number of senior positions in IHG’s Americas and former Asia, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) regions. He was previously Vice President of Operations for Midscale brands in North America, Vice President of Operations for the Holiday Inn brand in North America and Chief Operating Officer for Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific.
Prior to joining IHG, Keith held several senior positions at Bristol Hotels and Resorts, which was acquired by IHG in 2000. Keith is a Non-Executive Director of Yum! Brands. He also sits on the Board of WiHTL (Women in Hospitality Travel & Leisure). Keith is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and is currently a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for The School of Hotel Administration, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.
Senior Vice President
Lowe and Coral Tree Hospitality Group
Terri Haack is the senior vice president of Lowe and CoralTree Hospitality Group. Of her 40 years in hotel and resort operations, she is a 20-year veteran and member of the shareholder group, where she works with the firm’s hospitality teams nationwide on new ventures, assisting in the pursuit of new acquisition and development opportunities. She led the firm’s Terranea Resort, from construction, to a premier luxury destination on the Southern California coast, as its President for 15 years. Among many boards, Terri she serves on the AHLA Board of Directors, Chairman of the Educational Foundation Scholarship Committee, ForWard Executive Council, Past Chairman of California Hotel & Lodging Association, and Executive Committee for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles. She has received numerous local, state and national awards and accolades throughout her career. Terri is also a frequent industry conference speaker.