People News: The Ritz-Carlton, Pendry Hotels & Resorts, Sodexo and More Promote Leadership, Expand Teams

March 10, 2021

As the corporate events and hospitality industries gear up for better days ahead, hotels and event-related companies across the U.S. are appointing new leaders and expanding their teams. Take a look:

Thirty-year hospitality management industry veteran Jacqueline “Jackie” Volkart has been appointed dual general manager at The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Miami Beach, including the newly reimagined, 376-room Ritz-Carlton, South Beach and the 95-room Ritz-Carlton, Bal Harbour

Most recently, Volkart served as general manager at The St. Regis San Francisco, where, under her leadership, the hotel completed a full guest room and banquet facility renovation and re-gained the prestigious Forbes Five Star Award for 2021.

Volkart joined Marriott International in 1990 and has served in hotel and general manager roles at properties including The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne; The Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park; The Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove; The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan and The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun.

Pendry Hotels & Resorts has selected Danielle Choi as director of sales and marketing for Pendry Manhattan West, scheduled to open in summer 2021. Choi will be responsible for the overall sales, marketing and public relations efforts for the 164-room hotel, the brand’s first New York City property.  

With nearly a decade of marketing experience in the hospitality industry, Choi previously served as director of sales and marketing at Gramercy Park Hotel and director of global sales for Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts. 

Leading foodservice and facilities management company Sodexo has appointed Matthew C. Wagner to senior vice president of business development for its Sports & Leisure North America division. A respected industry veteran, Wagner will help guide the company’s ambitious growth efforts and lead business-building initiatives on behalf of Sodexo and Centerplate’s partners.

Previously, Wagner served at industry competitor Delaware North, where he led various development teams. He has also held leadership roles for residential real estate appraisal provider Solidifi, First Niagara Bank as senior vice president of its consumer finance division, Goldman Sachs in its asset management and securities divisions in New York City and with M&T Bank. 

Premier Worldwide Marketing, the exclusive sales and marketing provider for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, has strengthened its executive leadership team with several promotions. Elizabeth Fettes has been named chief marketing and sales officer while Marilyn Cairo and Rienk de Jong have both been named vice presidents of sales and marketing for the organization.

A seasoned leader in the luxury service industry, Fettes will attempt to drive the company forward with major brand launches and new properties opening across the Margaritaville Island Reserve and Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts brands. 

A 28-year travel industry veteran, Cairo will lead the company’s division centered on properties, including the El Dorado Spa Resorts, Generations Riviera Maya, Hidden Beach Au Naturel Resort and Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya, slated to open later in 2021. Boasting a 20-year tenure at the company, de Jong will lead the portfolio of brands including Azul Beach Resorts, Margaritaville Island Reserve, and Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.

The Forester Hotel has appointed hospitality industry veteran Marlena Karwowski as its general manager. As the first hotel to plant roots in the Lake Forest, Illinois community in more than 92 years, and the world’s first boutique-inspired Hyatt Place property, The Forester is slated to open in April 2021.

Hailing from Skaryszew, Poland, Karwowski has worked in the hospitality industry for more than two decades. She has served in key roles at properties including Hyatt Regency McCormick Place; Hyatt Regency Chicago; Hyatt House Evanston; Hilton Garden Inn Evanston; Hyatt Place Iowa City and Hyatt Place Milwaukee. 

After a comprehensive and exhaustive review of more than 130 candidates from around the world, the Global Business Travel Association has chosen Suzanne Neufang to be its next executive director, leading the combined GBTA and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives

Neufang assumed the role on Feb. 24, replacing Dave Hilfman, who served as the association’s interim executive director since July 2020. Hilfman will remain with GBTA in a temporary consulting role to smooth the transition.

With a diverse executive career that includes senior leadership roles with several high-profile travel and technology companies, Neufang most recently served as senior vice president-Americas for HRS Global Hotel Solutions. Before HRS, Neufang worked for 10 years as an executive leader with Sabre Travel Network, GetThere and Travelocity and later as a divisional CMO for Intuit. 

Event planning and management company Katmo Ventures has named Catherine New managing director of its new River Walk Chapel and Water Works Hall, part of the River Walk at Central Park, a 158-acre mixed-use project at Flower Mound in Dallas.

New joins the new wedding and special event venue after leading the social and catering team at Dallas’ historic Statler Hotel, as well as catering and sales management at Hilton Anatole. She boasts a wide array of awards and leadership honors, including serving as the president of the Dallas Chapter International Live Events Association and being awarded Meeting of the Year by the National Association of Catering and Events, DFW.

The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort recently named Sunni Dupree general manager of the new Hotel Effie Sandestin, which opened its doors on Feb. 1 on Florida’s Emerald Coast. With more than two decades of hospitality expertise, including in operations, food and beverage, event planning, hospitality management, customer service and coaching, she will oversee all day-to-day operations for the hotel.

Dupree has held numerous positions at properties within major hotel brands such as The Ritz-Carlton; Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Morgans Hotel Group; Hyatt Hotels and Interstate Hotels and Resorts. Most recently, she worked with Highgate Hotels, where she was responsible for managing hotel experiences and programming in addition to handling operations. 

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs has hired Scott Flexman as its vice president of sales and marketing. He will oversee all sales and marketing efforts for The Broadmoor, The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway and the Wilderness Experience portfolio, including The Ranch at Emerald Valley; Cloud Camp; Fly Fishing Camp and Seven Falls.  

With a hospitality career spanning more than 37 years, Flexman most recently worked as director of sales and marketing at Caribe Royale Orlando/Buena Vista Suites. He has also served as vice president of sales and marketing for Fontainebleau, Miami Beach; director of sales and marketing for Landsdowne Resort in Northern Virginia, and vice president of sales and marketing for Boca Raton Resort & Club. His management experience includes 16 years in various management positions with Stouffer and Renaissance Hotels.         

The Royal Sonesta New Orleans has hired Kristin Crawford as its director of sales and marketing. She brings nearly two decades in hospitality sales, event planning and client relations experience to her new role. 

Crawford will manage all aspects of the hotel’s marketing and sales activities, oversee staff to help promote, coordinate and execute on-property events and will assist with securing group sales for meetings, conventions and conferences. She most recently served as director of sales at The Adolphus, an Autograph Collection Hotel, in Dallas, Texas.  


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