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Sveinn Birkir Björnsson leads marketing and communications for Business Iceland, a public-private partnership that serves as a joint DMO, TPO and IPA for Iceland. Business Iceland‘s campaign, Inspired by Iceland has been widely recognised and awarded for its creative output and results.
After more than nine years at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, most recently as Vice President of Digital & Communications, Leroy joined Adara in the fall of 2021 and now serves as VP of Sales for Tourism. He has long been passionate about empowering destination marketers with the tools they need to advocate for their organizations. Using third-party tools like Adara’s Impact platform, Leroy was able to more than double St. Pete/Clearwater digital marketing budget over time. He now works closely with destination marketing organizations across the country to help them leverage Adara’s traveler data and tools. Leroy is a proud member of the 2014 Destinations International’s 30 Under 30 class and is a proud Purdue Boilermaker.
Brisa is a senior strategist that has led numerous place branding projects at CivicBrand. She hails from New Mexico, which is indeed one of the 50 states, and understands firsthand how a strong place identity impacts how people see themselves and the pride they have in their community. Her role as senior strategist means that she often facilitates focus groups, plans engagement activities, analyzes quantitative and qualitative data, identifies brand problems in the community, and develops brand strategies. Brisa also sits on the board of directors for Texas Downtowns, an organization that provides resources, advocacy, and education to develop vibrant districts in Texas.
Anita Cassidy is an accomplished leader responsible for the strategic direction and management of Burlington Economic Development in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Anita has worked for Burlington Economic Development since immigrating to Canada from Europe in 2011. She has 25 years of experience in Economic Development blending the perspectives of an extensive background in European and North American economic development practice.
A graduate of the University of Glasgow, Masters of Economic Development program she is multilingual and has lived and worked in seven countries. She has led a number of transformational initiatives for Burlington including the Burlington Economic Vision and the GO Investment Corridor. In her role as Executive Director, she uses her multicultural perspective to deliver unique strategies that position Burlington for investment. Anita also co-founded TechPlace, an Innovation Centre led by Burlington Economic Development that has supported thousands of entrepreneurs since it launched in 2017.
With over 30 years of experience in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors, Royce has focused the last 15 years of his career in senior leadership roles at the national, provincial, and now the civic level of destination management organizations. After spending 10 years at Travel Alberta, Royce relocated back to his hometown Vancouver to take on the role of President, CEO, and team leader of the newly transformed Destination Vancouver in July of 2020.
While at Travel Alberta Royce oversaw the development and launch of the award winning (remember to breathe) destination brand that resulted in increased awareness and visitation for Alberta. While at the Canadian Tourism Commission, Royce was part of the team that brought the Canada brand to life for millions of viewers and attendees of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics helping to put Vancouver and Canada on the global tourism bucket list.
Before that Royce developed extensive experience working in corporate, franchise and start-up business in operations, sales, and marketing in various leadership roles.
Royce volunteers on Destination British Columbia’s Tourism Marketing Committee, Expedia Media Select Advisory Board, Business Improvement Association Downtown Vancouver Board Member, and SAIT Dean’s Hospitality and Tourism Council.
Scott is the President and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah), a public-private, nonprofit partnership focused on catalyzing strategic economic investment and quality jobs in Utah. EDCUtah is funded by the Governor’s Office, about 150 private sector investor firms, and more than 50 communities around the state.
Previously he was COO of The Point, Utah’s generational economic development megaproject, and a management consulting director in the capital projects and infrastructure practice at PwC where he worked on development projects as large as $25B USD.
In Scott’s consulting career, he had the opportunity to advise some of the world’s leading firms including Fortune 5 tech giants, institutional investors, blue chip real estate firms and others across a variety of industries. His project portfolio included North and South America, Europe and the Middle East.
Scott holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University, a Master’s in real estate development from Georgetown University and a Master of Science degree in business from the University of Oxford.
Scott is passionate about Utah and thoughtful community development and is privileged to have served on national boards promoting economic empowerment, business and social causes. His wife and three daughters enjoy spending time in the Wasatch mountains and Utah’s national parks any chance they find.
Kyle Edmiston is the President/CEO of the Visit Lake Charles serving in that capacity since 2019. Previously, he was the Chief Operating Officer of the CVB, served for 6 years as the Director of the Louisiana Office of Tourism under two different Lt. Governor administrations and served for 6 ½ years as the President/CEO of Experience Ruston.
Kyle was awarded the Marion “Butch” Fox Advocacy Award by Louisiana Travel Association in 2022 and Visit Lake Charles was honored by LTA as the CVB of the Year for 2019 and 2022. In 2017, Kyle was honored as the National State Tourism Director of the Year by his colleagues and was named one of the Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in the United States for Marketing by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI). He was awarded the Southeast Tourism Society Rising Star Award in 2009 and earned his Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) from Destinations International in 2008.
Currently, he serves on the Executive Committee of the Destinations International Board of Directors, and he is the Immediate Past-Chair of the Board for the Louisiana Travel Association and serves on their board. He is a past chair of the Brand USA Board of Directors, the Travel South USA Board of Directors, and the Louisiana Association of CVBs. He also serves on the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors.
Kevin Ferguson is the Vice President of External Affairs and Membership at New Orleans & Company. His department is responsible for government affairs, membership strategies, community partnerships and engagement and interfacing with cultural entities across the region. Previously, the New Orleans native worked in professional sports with the New Orleans Pelicans and Saints organizations, as well as the New Orleans Hornets and New Orleans Zephyrs. He received a B.A. in History from Florida State University in 2006. He is civically engaged through board service with Habitat for Humanity, the Contemporary Arts Center, UNO Research and Technology Foundation, and GNOInc. NextGen Council.
Layne serves as the Director of Placemaking for CivicBrand. He is skilled in public space and multi-modal street design and has extensive experience working with cities and districts across the country on placemaking and place-branding initiatives. Prior to CivicBrand, Layne served as the Director of Design for Team Better Block, where he worked with cities on engaging the community through pop-up urbanism projects. Most notably, he co-authored the award-winning ‘Pop-Up Placemaking Toolkit’ in coordination with AARP Livable Communities that has been downloaded in cities across all 50 states by practitioners and active citizens as a tool for actionable steps to engage communities and implement placemaking demonstrations in their communities.
As Director of Destination Development for the Colorado Tourism Office Andrew works with communities across the state to realize their potential as tourism destinations. Guided by the belief that we are all stronger together, he helps identify common challenges and opportunities within a diverse set of tourism stakeholders to develop a common vision for the change they want to see in their community.
Before joining the Colorado Tourism Office, Andrew was the Destination Development Manager for Travel Oregon and the Director of Partnerships for Sustainable Travel International. In his free time, he can be found backpacking to alpine lakes or soaking in Colorado's eclectic hot springs.
Victor Hoskins joined the Fairfax County (Va.) Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) as president and CEO on August 5, 2019. Previously, he was the director of Arlington (Va.) Economic Development since 2015. In that role he is most known for leading the team that successfully attracted Amazon HQ2 to Arlington County, a deal that will bring between 25,000 and 37,850 Amazon jobs to Arlington, stimulate creation of another 75,000 jobs in the Washington region, and generate between $3.2 and $4.8 billion in revenue for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Since he arrived at the FCEDA, Microsoft announced a 400,000-square foot software R&D center that will have 1,500 employees. This was the largest transaction in Northern Virginia for 2020. Google, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, Volkswagen Group of America and the global law firm of King & Spalding also announced locations in Fairfax County.
Under Mr. Hoskins’ leadership, in 2020 the FCEDA launched a multi-faceted talent initiative aimed at attracting, retaining, retraining and growing the workforce that businesses need to succeed in Northern Virginia. In its first year the initiative connected more than 6,000 job-seekers with more than 100 companies, and the initiative involved more than 30 universities including many historically black colleges and universities throughout the mid-Atlantic.
In 2020 and 2021, the FCEDA helped thousands of businesses bridge the economic downturn created by the COVID-19 pandemic through marketing of grant and loan programs, technical assistance programming and virtual events. Mr. Hoskins is leading the regional economic development strategy initiative at Connected DMV, delivers projects and solutions across the Washington, D.C., area to create a stronger, equitable, and more resilient region. He is also involved in regional economic recovery strategy efforts in Fairfax County and Virginia.
While serving in Arlington, the county successfully implemented an Innovation Strategy that moved it toward technology and private-sector commercialization. Other successes in Arlington include Nestlé, Grant Thornton, Lidl, MasterCard, Deloitte, PBS and Opower-Oracle.
Previously, Mr. Hoskins worked in private real estate investment on Wall Street. He also served as deputy mayor of economic development for the District of Columbia, during which time he led the turnaround of the District’s economy with projects such as The Wharf and City Center. During his career, his work has resulted in almost 375,000 jobs, and he has led the teams that negotiated more than 700 major business deals resulting in billions of dollars in private investment.
Mr. Hoskins received the 2020 Regional Leadership Award from Leadership Fairfax Inc. He also received the 2019 Ronald Kirby Award for Collaborative Leadership from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Virginia Business magazine named him one of the “100 people to meet in 2020,” and the Washington Business Journal included him in its “Power 100 class of 2019.” Previously, the Washington Business Journal recognized him for his role in securing the Amazon and Nestle deals, and the D.C. Building Industry Association recognized him in 2014 and 2013 for leadership in economic development.
He holds a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor's degree with honors from Dartmouth College.
Mr. Hunden and his Chicago-based firm offer extensive experience in the economics of placemaking, primarily via transformative real estate projects. He has provided economic development, market and financial feasibility, impact, developer selection and planning expertise for more than 600 projects and studies over the past 20+ years, totaling more than $4 billion in developed real estate. The firm completes approximately 60 assignments per year with its 12-person professional staff. Hunden’s background in economic, real estate and tourism development combine to make him a unique resource for communities looking to develop their destinations and projects in a viable, transformative and sustainable way.
Joining Economic Development Regina from Canadian Western Agribition (North America’s premiere livestock show), Chris Lane building EDR into a data, analytics, and investment attraction powerhouse. With more than six years of executive leadership experience coupled with 15+ years of communications and media experience, Chris is ready to lead and tell the economic development story of Greater Regina Area while attracting businesses and investments from around the world. Serving on the boards of several local organizations and an avid volunteer, Chris is deeply connected to the Regina community. In his spare time, Chris is a private pilot and aircraft owner.
Billy Nungesser is the 54th Lieutenant Governor of the state of Louisiana. He was elected in 2015 and took office in January 2016. From July 2019 to July 2020, Nungesser served as Chairman of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, a professional association that charts issues and work to be pursued by the second-highest-ranking officials in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
Under his administration, the state of Louisiana celebrated a fourth consecutive year of record-breaking visitation as Louisiana welcomed more than 53.2 million visitors, bringing in more than $18.9 billion to the state.
Billy left a career as a successful businessman to begin his political career following Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, Nungesser rode out Hurricane Katrina at his ranch in southern Plaquemines Parish. In response to his own frustration over the slow response from the government following Hurricane Katrina, Billy decided to run for Plaquemines Parish President in 2006. He was re-elected in 2010 with over 70% of the vote.
On April 20, 2010, Plaquemines Parish became ground zero for the nation's biggest environmental disaster. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf, Billy became the voice of Louisiana's frustration.
During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the New York Times named him the "Hardest working man in Louisiana" and ABC named him Person of the Week during the same period. He continues to be the "hardest working man in Louisiana" to date on behalf of all of us.
Today Billy is second-in-command in the executive branch and Louisiana's ambassador as Commissioner of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. From natural disasters to promoting our great state...Billy Nungesser is a man for all of Louisiana.
Tourism industry visionary David Peacock is the Senior Advisor to the Future Tourism Group @ Simpleview, the global leader in software and services for digital destination marketing.
Peacock followed up two decades of international success as a senior executive in television and electronic media by accepting a challenge to spearhead the creation of a ground breaking tourism development incubator (RTO4.ca) in Ontario, Canada in 2011. He joined Simpleview in January 2020. He has track record in growing and strengthening tourism economies, as well as working with Destinations International and DestinationNEXT,
Peacock describes the Future Tourism Group as a vehicle for industry leaders to prioritize issues and participate in creating and beta-testing tools and processes to address them, with much of the work mirroring strategies he successfully developed for creating sustainable destination management networks, developing channels for distributed marketing and storytelling and strengthening stakeholder competencies.
Darren Reeder is a passionate, results-oriented industry professional with over 30-years experience providing policy, advocacy and industry development supports to community and economic development-oriented organizations spanning many sectors, most notably food processing, culinary and tourism and hospitality. Darren has been a vocal advocate for the expansion of Alberta’s tourism economy, and, for meaningful labour reforms that will enable this industry to reach its full potential.
A respected thought leader who has inspired various issues coalitions, coordinated advocacy campaigns and who also been an ardent defender of the need for tourism sector to better leverage industry data to advance its needs in front of provincial and federal decision-makers, Darren is driven by a simple philosophy: say what you’re going to do and then follow through, without exception.
He has been a vocal advocate on the importance and value of tourism in supporting Canada’s national park objectives through his work with the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association, and, was the driving force behind the creation of the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta where he currently serves as its President & CEO.
Over the years, Darren has undertaken extensive work on tourism destination development, funding model analysis to support destinations, and, conducted various tourism and event feasibility/expansion studies. Most recently he led the charge on a comparative economic analysis study that benchmarked public investment in tourism relative to other sectors of the provincial economy, arguing that government significantly under-invests in tourism relative other economic sectors, on a jobs and GDP-output basis.
Darren was formerly CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, where he was employed for 13-years. Under his leadership, the Chamber’s efforts to effect substantive provincial fiscal reforms were widely successful.
Darren and his family live in Canmore, Alberta.
Melvin Tennant, CAE, is president and Chief Executive Officer of Meet Minneapolis, Convention and Visitors Association. The private 501(c)6 business organization has a team of 73 who are dedicated to positively impacting the economic and social prosperity of the Minneapolis community. Under his leadership, Meet Minneapolis and Sports Minneapolis annually secure an average of 700 large, mid-sized and smaller meetings, conventions, and sporting events, including major events such as the 2018 Super Bowl, 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four, multiple years of ESPN’s Summer X Games, and the 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
His current board positions are with Association Forum, the U.S. Travel Association, the 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four local organizing committee, Minnesota Sports & Events executive board (the newly formed regional sports marketing entity) and Minnesota USA Expo 2027, as well as local community boards for the Hennepin Theatre Trust, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Twin Cities and YouthLink as board member emeritus.
Mark Anthony Thomas is the President & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, the first since the organization's spring merger with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB).
Mark has served in public leadership roles in Pittsburgh, New York, and Los Angeles shaping economic development strategies and partnerships. Before entering the public sector, Mark worked in the media sector, shaping content and investigative journalism on social impact development, and effective governance.
He is a graduate of the University of Georgia (BA), Columbia (MPA), and MIT (MBA) and has served on several boards supporting college access, creative arts, and civic innovation.
As president and CEO of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, Angela Val is charged with building Greater Philadelphia’s image, driving visitation and boosting the economy through day and overnight leisure visitation. The tourism marketing agency’s work supports local businesses, creates jobs, generates taxes and ultimately enhances residents’ quality of life.
A recognized trailblazer within Philadelphia’s tourism and hospitality industry, Val brings more than two decades of destination-marketing experience to her role, which she assumed in June 2022.
Previously, Val served as the chief operations officer at Tempest, an integrated marketing agency helping destination organizations and convention and visitors bureaus across the country strengthen their local communities. She was responsible for establishing policies that fostered company culture and vision and implementing business strategies.
Val brings more than two decades of destination-marketing experience to her role.
In 2021, Val led Ready. Set. Philly! as executive director, initiating the yearlong collaborative initiative with the City of Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to reopen and reinvigorate the city’s economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to joining Tempest, Val served as deputy executive director of the Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee for the DNC and then as chief administration officer at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), where she oversaw government and external affairs while managing day-to-day operations.
Val’s homecoming to VISIT PHILADELPHIA is a full-circle moment for her. She began her career at the organization in 1998 and worked her way up from executive assistant to the executive leadership team. Her efforts helped establish the organization as a powerhouse, and Val was at the helm of some of its most successful campaigns and initiatives, including With Art Philadelphia, Philly 360, Philadelphia Neighborhoods and the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package. Val concluded her first tenure at VISIT PHILADELPHIA in 2016 as chief external affairs officer.
Val is an effective leader, connector and culture builder, always striving to lead by example with an approachable and earnest executive style. She is committed to bringing vibrancy to Philadelphia’s business and cultural communities and currently serves on the board of Horizons Greater Philadelphia.
A Maryland native, Val moved to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University, where she received her bachelor’s degree. Thirty-one years later, she is still living in Philadelphia and currently resides in Point Breeze with her husband Joe.