Jessica Blotter
CEO & Co-Founder,
Kind Traveler

Jessica Blotter is CEO & Co-Founder of Kind Traveler, a speaker, and a journalist. The moment she discovered that the love of travel can’t be separated from the state of the world after witnessing poverty on a trip to Belize in 2012, she wondered how the $7-trillion travel industry could be harnessed to benefit communities, the environment, and animals. This experience led her and her cofounder to launch KindTraveler.com, a public benefit corporation that’s the first socially-conscious Give + Get hotel booking platform empowering travelers to become a force for good. Since launching Kind Traveler, Blotter has been featured in more than 200 news and blog outlets including Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Afar, Conde Nast Traveler, and Travel + Leisure. Blotter has delivered a TEDx talk ‘The Future of Travel: Purpose is King,’ was a recipient of the 2017 WITTI (Women in Travel & Tourism International) Award by Mandala Research as a Rising Star in Travel & Tourism presented by Skift, and received the ‘Best Ethical Travel Agency of 2018’ Award by ELUXE Magazine.

Salih Booker
President & CEo
Center for International Policy

Salih Booker has over thirty years of experience in international affairs and US foreign policy, including leadership of several U.S. and international research and advocacy organizations.

Booker became Executive Director of the Center for International Policy on September 1, 2017. From 2015-2017, he served as the vice president of external relations at the United States Institute of Peace, and before that as an advisor to the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Booker directed the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions in Geneva, Switzerland, and was executive director at Global Rights and Africa Action, both in Washington, D.C. He was also a Senior Fellow and Director of Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and served twice in the U.S. Congress as professional staff for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Earlier Booker was a program officer for the Ford Foundation in Eastern and Southern Africa, an Associate Director for Catholic Relief Services in Southern Africa and a legislative assistant at TransAfrica. He has also consulted for a range of institutions including the United Nations Development Program, The Carnegie Corporation, the Asia Society, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

He has spent half of his career abroad and lived in Ghana, Kenya, France, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Switzerland, Peru and Ethiopia and has traveled for work to over 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Mr. Booker was educated at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of Ghana and Wesleyan University.

Richard Campbell
Chief, Office of Tourism,
Organization of American States

Mr. Campbell is a national of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and has served as the Chief, Office of Tourism, in the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI) at the Organization of American States in Washington DC since March 2009. As the Chief of the Office of Tourism he is responsible for oversight, technical guidance, general management and supervision of the execution of the Office of Tourism’s Work Program; providing multi-disciplinary support to the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI) in the area of planning, policy advice and program execution on tourism and sustainable development.

For the last 20 years Mr. Campbell has worked on the economics of developing countries at various regional, sub-regional and international organizations within the Americas. Before joining the OAS he was Senior Advisor to the Executive Director for Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC. He has published in the area of the role of aid and economic development in small states, prepared various position papers, provided analysis and policy recommendations on economic development, poverty reduction, fiscal and debt sustainability and other international development issues. Between 1997 and 2002 he served in various positions at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in St Kitts, progressing through organization, culminating in the position of Deputy Director in the Research Department. Before that he worked as a Trade Economist with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Economic Affairs Secretariat in Antigua and Barbuda and as a Macro Economist in the Ministry of Finance Planning and Development, in his home country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mr. Campbell is a former Commonwealth Scholar and has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from the University of the West Indies and a Masters Degree in Development Economics from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

John Francis
Board Member,
Sustainable Travel International

Recently retired as Vice President for Research, Conservation, and Exploration at the National Geographic Society, John Francis' professional career is rooted in wildlife biology and promotion of human understanding of their delicate position within nature. Outside of his National Geographic Society responsibilities, Francis served on boards and committees for the US National Park System, the Commission for Education and Communication of the IUCN, and the US National Commission for UNESCO. In addition, he serves on the Board of Sustainable Travel International and is a key promoter of citizen science through BioBlitzes now expanding in popularity. His Ph.D. in behavioral ecology and postdoctoral research at the Smithsonian Institution, as well as representation of more than ten thousand grantees funded by the National Geographic Society around the world provide a broad understanding of conservation and research programs globally. Francis' close work with the media, six years as a film producer for National Geographic, and combination of science and storytelling at this institution, give him a unique appreciation of changemaking central to conservation organizations. 

 

Among varied efforts in safeguarding the planet, Francis is keenly interested in tourism as a motive force for conserving cultural and natural resources.  His oversight of National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destination as well as development of Mapguide and Geotourism initiatives, coordinated with the work of Traveler magazine, recognized travelers and service providers focused on sustainable action.  His additional role as advisor and host/expert on National Geographic Private Jet trips and Lindblad/NGS expeditions put him in touch with luxury travelers interested in leaving positive wakes while enjoying destinations worthy of both visitation and protection. Francis' unique history in research, conservation and tourism are poised to promote sustainable choices increasingly sought by travelers worldwide.

Hilary French
Program Management Officer,
North America Office,
United Nations Environment Program

Hilary French is a Program Management Officer at UN Environment 's North America Office, where her work focuses on climate change, sustainable consumption and production, food waste, and the green economy. Hilary previously served as a special advisor to the organization on a broad range of issues, including globalization and the environment and civil society engagement.  She came to UN Environment from the Worldwatch Institute, where she served in diverse capacities, including as Vice President for Research, as Director of the Globalization and Governance Project, as Senior Advisor for Programs, and as a Senior Researcher. Hilary has published and lectured widely on global environmental and sustainable development issues, including co-authoring fifteen of Worldwatch's annual State of the World reports and authoring the book Vanishing Borders: Protecting the Planet in the Age of Globalization. Hilary has also worked as a consultant to private foundations and as a Visiting Professor at Williams College. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Isabel Hill
Director, National Travel & Tourism Office, United STates DEpartment of COmmerce

Isabel Hill is the Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She and her team support and implement policies and programs that foster the competitiveness of U.S. travel and tourism industries in collaboration with the private sector and other federal agencies. Her office produces the national statistics on travel and tourism, is the Federal liaison to Brand USA, the public private partnership that promotes the U.S. as a travel destination.  Her office and represents U.S. travel and tourism policy in bilateral and multilateral fora.

 

A leader in tourism policy and planning, Ms. Hill led the development of the first National Travel and Tourism Strategy for the United States across 12 federal agencies and with the private sector, reflecting her commitment to public-private engagement and partnerships to advance shared objectives.  Ms. Hill led negotiations to open the market for packaged leisure travel from China to the United States, and developed the successful economic case for extending reciprocal visa validity between the United States and China from one to ten years. Ms. Hill directed the first International Tourism Promotion Program for the United States. Based on the platform “You’ve Seen the Films, Now Visit the Set”, the award-winning campaign paved the way for the creation of Brand USA, the nation’s first dedicated tourism marketing organization.

 

Ms. Hill is past Chair of the Tourism Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, serves on several working groups of the World Economic Forum, and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the World Tourism Forum Lucerne. Prior to federal service, Ms. Hill served in the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and in the South Carolina Department of Commerce.  During her State service, she and her team were credited with facilitating more than a billion dollars in investment in large-scale tourism development, sports venues, heritage tourism projects, and filmed entertainment.

Denaye Hinds
Civil Engineer & Director of SUstainability, OBM International
Technical Director, Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism

K. Denaye Hinds, a native Bermudian, is an engineer and project manager. She has experience in sustainability planning at the tourism-destination and operations levels, working with governments to produce sustainability plans and guide sustainable development in various island-nations. Hinds’ role in the tourism industry involves sustainability infrastructure, planning, and resource forecasting of islands as means to preparing for the future. With resilience and sustainable investment as a focus, she has provided guidance and developed tourism plans to ensure longevity of industries with the goal of improving and implementing sustainable development and policy.

Hinds is also director of corporate development for OBM International, a leading global architecture and master planning design firm specializing in hospitality and high-end residential design. She is responsible for leading the company’s development goals for corporate structure, business development, and culture. Hinds also serves as chairwoman for the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism and sits on the executive committee for the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association. She is active in the US Green Building Council for South Florida and the Caribbean.

Matthew Jeffery
Program Director & Deputy Director,
International Alliances Program

Matt has been with Audubon since 2006 and has more than 25 years of experience in the environmental conservation field. He works closely with and manages projects across several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean focusing efforts on the protection and improved management of protected areas and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), which support bird populations. Most recently, Matt has led eco-tourism initiatives for Audubon building bird guide and local business capacity to stimulate economic incentives that help protect the forests and nature in Belize, Bahamas, Guatemala, Paraguay and Colombia. 

Donald Leadbetter
Tourism Program Manager, National Park Service

Donald Leadbetter - is the Tourism Program Manager for the National Park Service, where he coordinates and facilitates collaboration with the travel and tourism sector on relevant issues in support of sustainable tourism that benefits parks, resources, visitors, communities, and the economy. Mr. Leadbetter previously worked in the National Park Service's Centennial Office as a partnership coordinator, collaborating with partners on a variety of commemorative programs and events for the agency's 2016 centennial. He has also worked in the National Park Service's Commercial Services program and for the Office of Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior. Prior to joining the National Park Service, Mr. Leadbetter spent a decade working on the front lines of the travel and tourism sector, from a lodge in Wyoming to expedition cruise ships around the world. His favorite park (at the moment) is Everglades National Park.

Kelley Louise
Executive Director, Impact Travel Alliance

A travel entrepreneur passionate about storytelling and social good, Kelley runs two sister organizations in the travel and impact space. She specializes in creative marketing for tourism clients through her boutique creative agency, The Culture Collective. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Impact Travel Alliance, the world’s largest community for socially conscious travelers and travel professionals.

 Kelley has built her career through carefully selected opportunities in the United States and abroad, including leadership roles in entrepreneurial endeavors, social good projects, marketing and media strategy. A content creator herself, Kelley is an avid photographer and writer. Kelley is a passionate connector, and has an innate ability to build loyal and diverse communities.

 Kelley has a bachelor's degree in Media & Culture from The New School. She lives in Brooklyn, and you can follow her adventures on social media @kelleytravels.

Thomas Lovejoy
University Professor, DEpartment of Environmental Science and Policy, GEorge Mason University & Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation

An innovative conservation biologist, Lovejoy coined the term “biological diversity” (1980). In 2010 he was elected University Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. He currently also is Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation based in Washington, DC.  He served as President of the Heinz Center from 2002-2008 and was the Biodiversity Chair of the Heinz Center from 20089-2013.  Before assuming this position, Lovejoy was the World Bank’s Chief Biodiversity Advisor and Lead Specialist for Environment for Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

Spanning the political spectrum, Lovejoy has served on science and environmental councils under the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations. At the core of these many influential positions are seminal ideas, which have formed and strengthened the field of conservation biology. In the 1980s, he brought international attention to the world’s tropical rainforests, and in particular, the Brazilian Amazon, where he has worked since 1965. In 1980 he produced the first projection of global extinctions for the Global 2000 Report to the President. Lovejoy also developed the now ubiquitous “debt-for-nature” swap programs and in 1979 initiated the longest and largest experiment in landscape ecology, a study of forest fragmentation in Amazonian Brazil.

 

With two co-edited books (1992 and 2005), he is credited as a founder of the field of climate change biology. He and Lee Hannah are working on the Second Edition of Climate Change and Biodiversity. He also founded the series Nature, the popular long-term series on public television. In 2001, Lovejoy was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 2009 he was the winner of BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology Category. In 2009 he was appointed Conservation Fellow by the National Geographic. In 2012 he was recognized by the Blue Planet Prize. Lovejoy holds B.S. and Ph.D (biology) degrees from Yale University.

Helen Marano
Executive Vice President of External Affairs,
World Travel & Tourism Council

Having joined WTTC in 2012, Helen Marano leads the efforts for expanding the awareness and engagement of WTTC and the T&T industry with the academia, other key tourism stakeholders and non-traditional organisations from the supply chain. Previously, she built the Government and Industry Affairs Department for the advocacy efforts of WTTC in presenting the industry perspective to government leaders and organisations.

 

Helen is a seasoned leader, having previously led the National Travel & Tourism Office of the United States for over a decade. This involved industry relations, policy formation, and oversight of the statistical system for T & T for the USA.  Her key accomplishments included opening up the USA for Chinese group travel, building the first Travel & Tourism Satellite Account, serving as the Chair for the Tourism Working Group of APEC, and collaborating in the formation of the Brand USA Corporation for marketing the USA.

 

Helen serves on:  the High Level Task Force for Child Protection in Travel and Tourism; the Advisory Board for the International Summit on Borders; and  the Advisory Board for the University of Surrey School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Her continued leadership and engagement at WTTC targets to improve and protect the sustainability of the sector as she heralds the importance of Travel & Tourism for the economic and social benefits contributing to the world community.

STephanie MEeks, 
President & CEO
National Trust for Historic PReservation

Stephanie Meeks has been the president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since July 2010. Under her leadership, the National Trust has increased its efforts to revitalize communities, save imperiled places, engage new audiences in preservation, and increase the organization’s impact. The Trust is leading an effort to highlight the critical connection between older buildings and vibrant cities, and is spearheading original research, data, tools and on-the-ground solutions to promote the reuse and reinvestment of older and historic buildings as the default option in American cities. Through its ReUrbanism initiative, the organization seeks to transform both the perception and practice of preservation, responding to the issues cities face today.

 

With co-author Kevin Murphy, she has written The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities, published by Island Press in September 2016. Also during her tenure, the National Trust has established a dynamic new program called National Treasures, which identifies significant threatened places across the United States and takes direct action through preservation, advocacy, marketing, and fundraising to save them. The growing collection of National Treasures, which is close to 100, brings resources and attention to historic places that reflect the wide contours of the American past.

In addition, the National Trust is strategically repositioning its portfolio of 27 historic sites to achieve new levels of stewardship, interpretation, and financial sustainability. Through this work, the Trust is inventing new models for these sites, combining commercial and non-profit uses to create enhanced visitor experiences and additional sources of revenue.

The current work of the National Trust brings a diverse and younger group of Americans into the preservation movement, and supports their efforts in their communities and across the nation. Through cutting-edge use of social media and public outreach, the Trust is well on its way toward its goal of enlisting 1.5 million Preservation Allies to its ranks. Before joining the National Trust, Stephanie served in several senior executive positions, including chief operating officer and acting president and chief executive officer, during her 17-year career with The Nature Conservancy.  She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Colorado and an MBA from George Washington University.

Hannah Messerli, Ph.D.
Senior Private Sector Specialist
THe World Bank

Hannah Messerli is a tourism development expert specializing in the economic, environmental and cultural dynamics of emerging markets. Through the integration of research and best practices, Hannah contributes to advancing sound tourism analytics, policy, and planning critical for creating competitive tourism economies.

Presently as a Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank, Dr. Messerli supports government initiatives to develop private sector tourism capacity in countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East regions. From 2016-2018, she was the Eisenhower Research Professor of Tourism Policy and Chair of the International Institute of Tourism Studies at George Washington University’s School of Business. Her expertise includes heritage and nature-based tourism development on local, regional and national levels. She is a frequent collaborator with UNWTO, WTTC and other global organizations on advancing the measurement and monitoring of tourism impacts. Dr. Messerli holds a master’s degree in hotel administration and a Ph.D. in tourism planning and development from Cornell University. She also completed a master’s degree in tourism planning at George Washington University. Hannah has worked in over 45 countries and co-authored Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods featuring more than 20 cases on tourism development challenges and solutions.

Kathleen Pessolano
Destinations PRogram Director, 
Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Kathleen Pessolano is Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the United Nations-backed standard setting body for sustainable tourism. She works with destinations, travel and tourism businesses, and other organizations seeking to apply the GSTC standards for sustainable tourism development at scale. She conducts and oversees GSTC destination sustainability assessments to inform community development, and works with companies interested in strategic application of the GSTC Criteria to guide sustainability of their operations and supply chain.

 

In addition to her role for GSTC, Kathleen advises government, corporate, and NGO clients on policy, partnerships, and programs addressing shared development challenges for mutual benefit. Kathleen especially enjoys working with partners devising strategies to strengthen local benefits from tourism, including building capacity and market access for local entrepreneurs and other suppliers.

 

Kathleen previously served as an attorney for the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and for the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP, focused on antitrust, consumer protection, and energy matters. Early in her career, Kathleen helped the Center for International Private Enterprise advance private sector development in Latin America & the Caribbean. Kathleen is based in Washington, D.C.

Norie Quintos
President, Norie Quintos Media & Communications and Editor-at-Large, National Geographic Travel Media

Norie Quintos is a communications and content consultant, advising destinations and travel companies on how to tell their unique stories. She has deep connections around the world, speaks several languages (badly), and has a Rolodex of talented writers, photographers, designers, and producers. She directs editorial teams for print and pixel projects. An Editor at Large for National Geographic Travel Media, she writes and blogs about the world of travel from a cultural perspective. She was the longtime executive editor of National Geographic Traveler and previously held staff editor jobs at U.S. News and World Report and Caribbean Travel and Life.

JIm Sano
VIce President, Travel, Tourism and Conservation
World Wildlife FUnd

Jim Sano is World Wildlife Fund’s Vice President for Travel, Tourism and Conservation. He serves as the senior advisor on sustainable tourism programs and develops new initiatives to engage our most committed supporters. Jim was formerly President of Geographic Expeditions, a San Francisco-based adventure travel company that offers educational travel, location management, and sustainable travel consulting services. During his tenure the company received multiple awards and distinctions, including being named best adventure travel company in the world and one of the 50 best places to work in America. Prior to joining Geographic Expeditions, Jim served as a ranger and special assistant to the Superintendent at Yosemite National Park in California. His responsibilities included overseeing park naturalist/interpretive programs; coordinating several key elements of the park’s General Management Plan; and serving as a member of its search and rescue team.

Jim was on WWF’s National Council for 10 years and is an Emeritus Board Member of the Trust for Public Land. Additionally, he was the founding president of the Mono Lake Foundation; and a founding director of the Natural Step and the Yosemite Restoration Trust. Jim is the recipient of five National Park Service Special Achievement awards. He also led the first American men and women’s expedition to Mt. Everest, the first guided crossing of South Georgia Island, and other ground-breaking expeditions in Asia and Latin America.

KRis Sarri
President and CEO
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Kris joined the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation as President and CEO in October 2016. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kris formed an early, life-long connection to environmental stewardship growing up surrounded by the Great Lakes. 

 

Kris' career spans over 19 years working on ocean, land, and climate policy. Kris most recently worked at the Department of Interior, where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget from 2014 to 2016. Prior to joining the Department of Interior, Kris was the Associate Director for Legislative Affairs for the Office of Management and Budget. She also served as Deputy Director of Policy and Strategic Planning for the US Department of Commerce and spent eight years in the US Senate where she was on the Professional Staff of the Senate Commerce Committee with responsibility for Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee. 

 

Kris received a B.A in Biology from Washington University, St. Louis and an M.S. and M.P.H from the University of Michigan. She is an avid SCUBA diver. 

Don Welsh
President & CEO
Destinations International

A seasoned tourism executive with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, Welsh serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International (formally Destination Marketing Association International), the world’s largest trade association for official destination organizations, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) and tourism boards. Together with more than 4,700 members and partners from nearly 600 destinations in approximately 15 countries, Welsh leads the Association’s efforts to raise the level of professionalism in the destination marketing industry, exert a collective influence in matters that may impact destination organizations and position the destination marketing industry as an important economic generator in member communities.

Since joining the Association in March 2016, Welsh has implemented a strategic realignment for the Association in 2017, through a renewed commitment to focus on member needs to deliver the resources members have determined to be essential to the success of their organizations. Leading this list of priorities – education, professional development, certification, accreditation, best practices and advocacy support followed by scalable and timely products and services.

Prior to joining Destinations International, Welsh served as the President and CEO of Choose Chicago, the official destination marketing organization for Chicago. In this role, Welsh was responsible for marketing Chicago to business and leisure travelers throughout regional, national and international markets.  During his five years with Choose Chicago, Welsh developed and implemented initiatives that contributed to stellar results for Chicago’s visitor industry. Welsh and his team reported a record-breaking and results driven 2014, including a record of 50.2 million visitors to Chicago resulting in record tourism spending, record hotel tax revenue and jobs; 14 months of record demand for hotel rooms and 13 percent growth in hotel room night production by the Choose Chicago convention sales team. 

Welsh also held the CEO position at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau.  Prior to joining the destination marketing industry, Welsh served as senior vice president for Westin Hotels at its corporate headquarters, and has also held senior leadership positions in sales and marketing for Westin Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas.

Larry Yu
Professor of Hospitality Management, Department of Management, Faculty Director of the Master of Tourism Administration Program
George Washington University

Larry Yu is Professor of Hospitality Management in the Department of Management, Faculty Director of Master of Tourism Administration program, School of Business, the George Washington University. He has been involved in international tourism and hospitality development and education since 1979. His teaching and research interests focus on organizational, strategic and global aspects of tourism and hospitality business, particularly on management innovation and employee creativity. He has authored, co-authored, co-edited six books and published over 50 research articles on international tourism and hotel management. Dr. Yu consults with government agencies, international aid organizations and business organizations and worked on tourism and hospitality projects in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He serves as a member of the Expert Committee of World Tourism City Federation.