2018 Suppliers of the Year: Rising Stars

Liana Acevedo, Richmond Region Tourism

Liana Acevedo, Convention and Sports Services Manager at Richmond Region Tourism

Nominated by Destinations International

Pivotal Moments: After obtaining my degree in hospitality management from Virginia State University, I began working full-time in hotel operations and sales. This led me to an opportunity as a sales and services coordinator at Richmond Region Tourism, working with the small-meetings and sports markets. I believe it was my passion and dedication to providing exceptional client services that earned me a promotion into my current role.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: The role of the hospitality sector is to connect people to experiences and promote the overall vitality of the community. Our industry directly supports the economic development of a local area and generates a variety of job opportunities. Meetings and events provide spaces for people to connect through networking, shared interests and continued education that crosses multiple industries. The services provided by the hospitality sector benefit residents, out-of-town visitors and the greater economy. Through providing shelters in times of crisis, celebrating milestones and special occasions, this industry connects with everyone on a global level.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: I strive to provide all our meeting and event organizers with a customized, authentic Richmond experience through the partnerships we have with our local service providers, attractions, restaurants, and hotel and meeting facilities. By lending myself as the primary resource in the destination, I am available to provide cost- and time-saving solutions. This collaborative destination experience helps streamline production for our planners toward a successful execution of any event.

Carleigh Dworetzky, Destination DC

Carleigh Dworetzky, Convention Strategy Manager at Destination DC

Nominated by Destinations International

Pivotal Moments: I have always been a numbers person. As a sales manager, I became fascinated with revenue and the overall optimization of meeting space. After years of partnering with Destination DC as a member, I was thrilled with the opportunity to combine my love for Washington, D.C., and the overall impact of conventions and meetings to our destination.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: Hospitality has always embodied the golden rule of treating people as you want to be treated. In 2017, tourism directly supported 75,048 D.C. jobs. Hospitality provides the setting for some of the world’s most powerful meetings and conventions and is at the forefront of relationship-building. Technology and innovation play large roles in augmenting D.C.’s hospitality sector, as visitors can take advantage of access to expert speakers, federal policy makers and industry sponsors for almost any event. Events like these truly connect people and build partnerships across the globe. From medical-based research meetings to presidential events with world leaders, to corporate rallies—some of the most impactful decisions come from the hospitality setting.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: It’s all about the “Real D.C.”! Meeting planners can wow attendees with D.C.’s historic landmarks, tech-friendly venues, vibrant neighborhoods and our Michelin-starred dining scene to fuel any gathering. With a variety of meeting spaces and 16 free-to-enter Smithsonian museums, it’s no surprise that D.C. is one of the top destinations to host a meeting. We are dedicated to developing initiatives and investing in new opportunities by adding to our strong industries, with $11.5 billion in development underway, 20 hotels in the pipeline and many new and renovated special-events venues in the works.

Fidel Mitchell, Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau

Fidel Mitchell, CMP, Convention Services Manager at Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau

Nominated by Destinations International

Pivotal Moments: I joined the destination marketing community because it encompassed my dream job—the perfect cross between event planning and tourism and hospitality.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: I see hospitality is an important economic driver that offers people experiences that elevate their lives. I spent my formative years on a tiny, 108-square-mile island called Antigua. During that time the Antiguan Ministry of Tourism had a slogan: “Tourism is everybody’s business.” This has always defined the basis of my understanding of hospitality and tourism. Growing up, everyone I knew was involved in the island’s tourism industry, whether directly or indirectly. I’ve seen the impact tourism has on people’s economic power and quality of life. My mother, for example, has been employed in the hospitality industry for the duration of my existence, in one way or another. It has allowed her to earn a livable wage, which in turn provided me with access to a quality education and way of life.

Hospitality is a phenomenon that brings folks together. It is not only an important economic factor, but also a feel-good industry. Individuals from around the globe invite each other to their side of the world to experience different ways of life.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: In Arlington, Texas, we create relationships! Our goal is to build solid relationships with every planner who is interested in hosting an event in our city. We are experienced industry experts who provide our clients with customizable services and experiences. Our team utilizes the planners’ goals and objectives as main “ingredients” to create the ultimate experience or “meal” for our planners and their conference attendees. For example, in 2017, the Texas Travel Industry Association hosted Travel Summit in Arlington. Its goal was to highlight to attendees our city’s unique blueprint. We took that to heart when we created an Around the World Dine Around at the only international bowling museum in the world. There, we invited our eclectic group of partner restaurants that have been featured on The Travel Channel and Food Network to showcase their most popular menu items to the group. It was a hit!

We are continuously seeking innovative ways to help planners create compelling experiences for their attendees. One example is meeting enhancement, which combines the excitement of our parks with meeting themes. Planners can incorporate character interruptions, customizable performers and unique entertainment elements into their meeting—creating unforgettable programs that leave attendees in amazement.

Alex Land, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Alex Land, CEM, Sales Executive at Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Nominated by IAEE

Pivotal Moments: After graduating college, I was fortunate to work for GES and National Trade Productions, two organizations that took an extremely hands-on approach towards teaching me the production and show management sides of the exhibitions industry. Working in both worlds gives me a unique perspective when it comes to supporting Las Vegas’ distinctive and expansive programs that capture worldwide attention.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: I see our industry as the barometer for so many things— culture, business, technology—and human interaction. The model will evolve, but the hospitality industry will always represent the best way for people to share cultures and exchange ideas.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: The most incredible thing about Las Vegas is our ability to scale. Las Vegas hosts the best and most innovative meetings in the world, ranging in size from five people to crowds of 150,000. When an event comes to Las Vegas, attendance tends to increase by an average of 8 percent. Those attendees spend more time in meetings and on the trade-show floor because they know all the incredible amenities our 24-hour city has to offer will be waiting for them once business is done for the day.

Tara Allen, GES

Tara Allen, CEM, Sales Manager at GES

Nominated by IAEE

Pivotal Moments: After graduating with my event management degree from the world-renowned University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management, an internship opportunity presented itself at GES in the trade show sales division. I jumped at the opportunity to work at such a prestigious company! During my internship, I had the unique opportunity to work in each department and grow my understanding and love of this industry.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: Events bring the world together. They have the amazing ability to create priceless and lasting relationships in a short period of time. Face-to-face interactions promote personal connections and boost business results across all regions, industries and demographics.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: The most important thing is to listen. I listen for their needs, their goals, their aspirations. I listen to their greatest successes as well as their pain points. Only by listening can I truly understand their vision and help achieve their goals.

Bill McGlade, a2z

Bill McGlade, CEM, Senior Director for Emerging Business at a2z

Nominated by IAEE

Pivotal Moments: With a combined experience of more than 12 years in show management and strategic consulting in trade-show management and marketing technology, I have played a pivotal role in the success of events, including International Sign Expo, American Public Transportation Association, Coverings, USITT Conference & Tradeshow. Working closely with A2Z’s CEO, Rajiv Jain, I recognized the critical need for full white-glove service to connect accurately matched, elite buyers with suppliers in an engaging and personalized environment.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: The hospitality and meetings industry is integral to the global business experience and a crucial platform for meaningful professional connections and bonified business relationships. Businesses worldwide rely on the hospitality sector to support viable marketplaces and bring pleasant experiences to support B2B conferences, trade shows, and meetings.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: VIBE (Very Important Business Exchange) combines the best of technology with meaningful, personalized experiences. This service makes it incredibly simple for planners to wow their audiences through smart processes without adding additional manual work. With VIBE, we are creating a revolutionary new business model that will keep face-to-face events relevant and profitable for years to come, making the ever-looming challenges of digital distractions and attendee acquisition irrelevant. In other words, we make business-event planning, execution and marketing frictionless for the entire business-event industry.

Chris Robinson, Visit Salt Lake

Chris Robinson, Executive Meetings Manager and Sports Sales Manager, Visit Salt Lake

Nominated by Destinations International

Pivotal Moments: My career in the hospitality industry began 10 years ago in the operations department of Salt Lake’s premiere hotel, The Grand America. I was fortunate to interact with guests at the front desk and with meeting and event planners in the sales department. My fortune further improved when Visit Salt Lake asked me to come aboard three years ago. It’s been an enjoyable privilege to serve the entire hospitality community, and be part of such a progressive DMO.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: Tourism and travel is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economic sectors. World Travel and Tourism Council indicates it accounts for 10.4 percent of global GDP, and supports one in every ten jobs on the planet. The economics of our industry are clearly impressive, but I believe the benefit of travel extends far beyond the dollars and cents. When we experience new places, we generally gain an appreciation for other human beings and their cultures. And when we appreciate and better understand one another, the world becomes a better place.

On the micro-level, it feels good to know the sports events I bring to Salt Lake enable the local cab drive to buy his daughter a prom dress, or the restaurant server to get her son through college.

One thing you do to help planners create brilliant experiences: We recognize that every destination has an airport, a convention center, hotels, restaurants and attractions. So, at some level, these things are commodities. We work hard to distinguish ourselves by providing a heightened level of service. Of course, we provide the standard things other CVBs and DMOs do, like lead distribution and site inspections. But, we also provide some services that are above and beyond the call of duty, such as customized attendance-building campaigns, media outreach services, and over the top community welcome campaigns. We offer attraction passes, multi-resort ski passes and a brewery tour pass. And, we’ve just created a ‘Show Your Badge’ program that enables visitors to obtain discounts and specials at local restaurants, bars and retail outlets, using their smartphones. Most importantly, I believe it’s our attitude and approach that helps planners create brilliant experiences.

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